What Ted Lasso taught me about maths assessment

numeracy leaders teachers Jul 12, 2023

One of my top 5 TV shows of all time is Season 1 and 2 of Ted Lasso (I found Season 3 a little disappointing!). Originally I thought Ted was a sports related TV documentary. I think if I knew it was a drama I might not have watched, so it was fortuitous that I was misinformed!

The basic plot is that the main character, Ted Lasso, is a US Gridiron coach who is given the job of head coach (director) at an English soccer club. Ted knows next to nothing about soccer or England as he begins the job as director of Richmond FC! 

If you haven’t seen Ted Lasso I HIGHLY recommend it. It is heart warming, funny, deep and has so many lessons for people. Particularly teachers and leaders.

In this blog I want to share one lesson that I have taken from Ted into my maths teaching.

The lesson is “Be curious”.

In Season 2 of Ted Lasso, there is a famous scene where Ted is playing darts and he invites his bosses’ cocky X-husband (Rupert) to play against him.

There is a significant outcome on the line. If Rupert wins he gets to choose the Richmond FC starting line-up for the last 2 matches of the season. If Ted wins Rupert can't go near the owner's box on match day. 

Rupert, who has been noticing Ted playing (and presumably in his mind comparing his own ability) agrees to play against Ted, confident he will win.

As they begin the game something very interesting happens.

Ted who has been playing with his right hand, swaps hands and begins to play with his left. He has actually been playing the whole time with his non-dominant hand and is quite the 'darts-shark' (if that is a phrase)!

Ted then shares a monologue (I haven't used this phases since my Year 12 English classes...lol!) where he mentions amongst other things the famous US poet Walt Whitman's quote: Be curious, not judgmental.

Essentially the message is: Rupert should have asked questions instead of making up his mind about Ted’s ability purely on what he observed.

This got me thinking about assessment in the maths classroom.

Often when we complete an assessment we look at the data and make a judgment associated with the number. We decide if the student is at standard or otherwise, 'good' or 'bad' at maths. 

But their score is only a tiny part of the real picture!

It is important that we are curious, that we Interrogate the data.

Ask yourself : Why is this child receiving this score?

Is it because they are struggling with the reading load (they are actually ok with the maths)? Is it because they had a headache that day? Is it because they stayed up late the night before watching the Tour de France? Is it because they are 9 months younger than most of their peers and have had less maths experiences? (see this blog I wrote on the Matthew Effect for more info on this idea). Have they decided to skip the online question, rather than try to answer it? There are many factors that contribute to a 'score'.

On the other hand, if a student scores well on an assessment, you could ask: Is it because they have had lots of mathematical experiences in this area (i.e., they play lots of darts at home, so a really good at addition)? Do their parents send them to tutoring? Does the assessment play to their strengths? for example, have they learnt lots of procedures, but would they struggle to apply this knowledge? Have they guessed?

Being curious, rather than judgmental gives us permission to think deeply, to develop our assessment literacy skills and to really get to know our students as fascinating people rather than numbers on a spreadsheet!

So this week I encourage you to be curious, not judgmental. Talk to your students and try to find out a little more about what is behind their assessment scores.

Have a great week!

-Ange

Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

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