Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships and all strands of mathematics are based on this.

Zevenbergen, Dole, and Wright (2004) expand on this by describing mathematics as:

  • a way of thinking, seeing, and organising the world – organising and analysing information or events in a systematic way
  • a language – a precise way to communicate complex ideas
  • a tool – useful for efficiently solving problems and making wise decisions
  • a form of art – for some, mathematics is inherently beautiful
  • power – a contributor to success, a social filter, a foundation for other powerful forms of knowledge.

          adapted from pages 8–9

Low-achieving students often spend much more time on skillbased activities than their mathematically confident peers. This can lead to them feeling bogged down in number knowledge and strategies and prevent them from seeing mathematics as useful and interesting.

Limiting students to repetitive skills-based activities in mathematics is a bit like limiting a piano student to scales or a hockey student to drills. In each case, the learner never gets to the point of the learning.


  • Consider what you emphasise in your teaching. Think about ways to help students develop a big picture view of mathematics.
  • Delve deeper when a student says “Maths is boring”. They may be trying to hide a sense of inadequacy but they could also be responding to the way that maths has been presented to them.
  • Focus on finding patterns, identifying relationships, and problem solving.
  • Prioritise exploring mathematical ideas in context and making connections between mathematical ideas.

Back to Resource 1: Fostering positive mathematical identities