Visible Learning for Mathematics

It has been a year since I have visited my site. In that time, I have read and used a number of texts but just haven’t had time to share. My goal this Easter was to re-visit my blog and share a current text. A copy of  Visible Learning for Literacy by Hattie, Fisher and Frey was given to all Queensland State School principals at a recent conference. As pre-reading for a professional learning session that I was conducting, I was given a couple of chapters to read and make reference. This pre-reading whetted my appetite and when I found that these authors had also produced a text called Visible Learning for Mathematics, I immediately bought both.

Visible learning in Mathematics

In preparation for another professional learning session, I  began reading the mathematics one. It was such an easy read and I read it from front to back. It cleverly combines the effect size work of Hattie and the brilliant pedagogical instruction of Fisher and Frey. Although it is written for mathematics, I can see the ideas transferring to other learning areas.

In the preface to the book, Hattie, Fisher and Frey (2017) write that the denominator of great mathematicians is that they knew how to struggle. Students need to be persistent, enjoy the struggle, and continue to try. As I reflect on my own mathematics education, it is interesting that although I never received brilliant grades, I always enjoyed the challenge of mathematics (and still do to this day). I especially love seeing how other people (including students and my own children) solve problems and have learnt so much by engaging in rich and rigorous discussion about these different techniques. As a teacher, this discussion has transferred to effective mathematics pedagogy and how to enhance mathematics engagement for students.

The authors mention four things that make mathematics teaching more powerful: appropriately challenging learning intentions and success criteria; learning that is embedded in discourse and collaboration; students doing more of the thinking and talking than their teacher and; students owning their learning. Hattie adds that greater than an effect size of 0.4 allows students to learn at an appropriate rate. The effect size for classroom discussion is 0.82. Students should be invited to talk in collaborative groups, working to solve complex and rich tasks.

Why am I taking the time to share my insights? People who understand mathematics have a higher quality of life. Our moral imperative is every student succeeding. Therefore, to be successful, students must receive high quality instruction (Boaler, 2015).

There are seven chapters in this book and over the next series of blogs, I will share my insights under the following chapters.

Chapter 1: Making learning visible in mathematics.

Chapter 2: Teacher clarity.

Chapter 3: Mathematical tasks and talk that guides learning.

Chapters 4-6: The three phases of learning, surface, deep and transfer, one chapter for each phase.

Chapter 7: Assessment, feedback and meeting the needs of all learners.


Hattie, J., Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2017). Visible learning for mathematics What works best to optimize student learning Grades K-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Are you that teacher?

Be the teacher who makes every student feel like the favourite student.  I recently found  this quote on my Facebook feed and it resonated strongly with me.

I have always believed that any student can learn and that as a teacher, I can have a positive impact on students who struggle with their learning. I think this is one of the reasons I majored in Special Education when studying for my Masters and accepted the role of a Support Teacher Literacy and Numeracy.

But teaching is more than helping students to learn, it is also about establishing a rapport with students, providing a place where they feel safe and accepted and looking after the ‘under-dog’.

It is so important to ‘know our students’ – not just how they learn, but also what and who is important to them. Like many teachers, I make a point of saying hello, noticing the little things, such as a haircut and celebrating birthdays. For students whose home life is less fortunate, school is sometimes their sanctuary.

I saw this Students who challenge their teachers the mostquote on my twitter feed recently and it struck a chord. Sometimes those with the greatest need are those who are the most challenging in the classroom. I can remember going home from a hard day at school wanting to give up on a particularly difficult student, but waking up the next day, ready to start again and try something different.

Heidi McDonald Scorebusters (@Scorebusters) January 14, 2015

“There is clear evidence that five years of learning from above average teachers would erase the academic effects from poverty.”  Eric Jensen

In an interview with staff from We Are Teachers, Jensen suggested five things that all teachers can do to connect with students affected by poverty to help them succeed in their classrooms.

  1.  Teach vocabulary daily
  2.  Make your classroom a stress-free zone
  3.  Treat your class like family
  4.  Take brain breaks
  5.  Share a mini autobiography

These seem like five simple strategies to employ. If you get the opportunity, read this entire article. It is a reminder that as teachers, we can have a huge impact on the lives of all our students, but particularly those impacted by poverty.