The Losada Ratio

numeracy leaders teachers Jun 22, 2023

I love to read! I have many many books on the go at once. Most are related to the teaching of maths, some to sport, and others to 'self-improvement'. I love books written by experts in particular fields. So basically, as soon as I see something written by someone with a PhD, I am in!

I know first hand the blood, sweat and tears that goes into completing a PhD, and I find it fascinating reading how these researchers translate their findings into easy to digest advice in the form of a mainstream book.

Not long ago I was reading a book called 'The Ten Pillars of Success: Secret Strategies of High Achievers" by Dr Josephine Perry. This book caught my eye while my children and I were killing time at the Melbourne airport bookstore. I was very keen to read the book, so I decided to tell the kids that I was feeling very generous and everyone could choose one book to buy and read on our holiday (which they were actually all very excited about)! 

As you can imagine I read almost every book with my maths teaching/leadership glasses on. There were many things in this book that I found fascinating! One was the Losada Ratio (Losada, Heaphy, 2004). Basically the Losada Ratio is a mathematical formula that measures positive and negative interactions within an organisation (for example a classroom, school, leadership team or a relationship).

Psychologist Marcial Losada calculated the ratio by dividing the number of positive interactions observed by the number of negative interactions. He found that high-performing teams had a ratio of 3 positive interactions for every one negative interaction. In contrast, low-performing teams had a ratio of less than 1:1, meaning they had more negative interactions than positive ones.

This made me think of the daily interactions we have as both Numeracy leaders and classroom teachers. It made me wonder about the number of positive interactions our students experience with mathematics compared to the negative interactions.

It made me wonder if we tried to make a conscious effort to ensure our students have more positive experiences in maths, would this make a difference to their ‘performance’? I know as teachers, no one ever consciously tries to make maths a negative experience, but this can often happen simply because of the pressure and measures of success our students associate with maths. Every student from the first year of primary school quickly develops an opinion on their level of maths skill. Whether this is accurate or not, is not important... they are what they think!

Then I started thinking about Numeracy Leaders. There are many teachers in our schools who are constantly having negative experiences and interactions with the teaching of maths. Whether it is lessons that don't go to plan, challenges with planning, or students that just aren't 'getting maths', there is not often a lot of 'upside' to the teaching of maths. This makes 'high performance' in maths teaching seem like an uphill battle!

Many of the staff we lead would benefit from an increase in the number of positive interactions they have with maths teaching. We need to help these teachers to have 'quick wins'. Whether it is introducing a simple high yield routine for teachers to try (such as Choral Counting or Counting Collections), helping them to understand how to teach a particular concept effectively, sharing quality resources to support their planning, or stepping them through how they can use a simple formative assessment to guide their teaching, we need to increase the love and positivity around maths teaching!

So my advice for this week is to think about the Losada Ratio and some simple steps you can take to help your colleagues or students experience more positive interactions/experiences/feedback in maths.

As a final thought, you may also like to apply the Losada Ratio to your interactions with your partner/children/family members- apparently the marriages that last the longest have a ratio of around 5 experiences of positive feedback for each negative one!

I am just off to tell my husband that the Butter Chicken he cooked last night was excellent! :)

Have a great week!

Losada, M., & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(6), 740-765.

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