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Imagine a Maths exam written by History teachers

How to encourage collaboration across the curriculum

Imagine if maths exams were written by history teachers. Or art teachers. Or musicians. What kind of questions would they ask?

School maths often operates in a silo, making little connection with other subjects. And the feeling seems to be mutual - I know an English teacher who would run a mile if he was asked to collaborate with the maths department.

It's as if you're only allowed to learn one subject at a time, and that school subjects are not connected to each other. Of course this is rubbish. Once you leave school, you quickly discover how maths permeates almost every area of life, whether you like it or not.

So how could you get school departments to collaborate more? One novel idea would be to get teachers to set 'guest' questions for other departments in the end of year exams.  The end of Year 10 might be the best time to do this - when students' knowledge is maturing but before GCSEs.

As a thought experiment, I asked non-maths teachers from a range of schools to come up with maths questions that they thought would be appropriate for Year 10s. The result is a delightfully eclectic maths exam which has been published in the November 2021 issue of Mathematics in School. You can see it here, starting on page 17

But getting school departments to collaborate will not be easy. I regularly speak at maths teacher conferences, but in an attempt to break out of the maths silo, I recently offered to do a short optional workshop at a large history teacher conference.  The title I suggested was: Richard III Was My Cousin, and the workshop would explore the 'maths of history' as well as the 'history of maths'.

Alas my workshop offer was rejected.  The reason?

"There is not much appetite for this sort of cross-curricular session among secondary history teachers"