Maryanne Tipler, the author of 43 mathematics textbooks, 28 teacher files and nine homework books for primary, intermediate and secondary students, has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contribution to mathematics education. In her 35 years of creating maths resources, she has seen ideas come and go, so we were excited to hear her insights, memories, and reflections.
It’s no surprise that wee Maryanne was a good maths student, “but I was lucky because all the way through, and especially in primary school, I had teachers who taught maths well.”
However, she notes “primary school teachers are not mathematicians: it’s often not their strong suit, and they have to cover so many subjects.”
As she began her own teaching career, her “first love was physics and so I taught maths, science and physics. I also loved drama and have my LTCL in Speech and Drama, so I was heavily involved in the schools major drama production each year, which made my first years’ teaching very busy!”
“I didn’t really enjoy teaching, although I enjoyed teaching one-on-one or small groups, just not whole classes,” she said. Thus, Maryanne began creating her own resources, beginning with a secondary programme for low achievers.
“Creating resources combined my love of maths with my creative drama side, so it was something I loved doing. As the years went on, I realised that primary teachers especially do not have time to create their own resources for every subject area nor study the curriculum in detail, so I really wanted to produce a resource that had lots in it but met the curriculum ethos and requirements. My resources are always a combination of practising knowledge like tables with promoting understanding of maths and asking questions that require mathematical thinking. I wanted teachers to have a choice of material within my resources rather than working the resource cover to cover. Nowadays there are a lot more resources on the market, including online, but not all of it meets the curriculum requirements.”
Beginning in 1994, Tipler co-wrote the National Curriculum Mathematics primary series, trialling the ideas in schools and getting feedback from teachers.
Sue Timperley, Maryanne’s co-author of the hugely popular New Zealand Curriculum Mathematics (Stages) series and NZCM Connecting All Strands series, reminisced about those years of writing: “As we had a very tight work schedule with little room for movement, the writing process became pretty much all consuming: you live and breathe each book and even down time doesn’t stop your brain from thinking of ways to frame an idea. [Maryanne] is a perfectionist when it comes to writing and puts in an immense number of hours.”
“We have worked in some strange places while creating the books, often with both or one of us being on the other side of the world. We learnt to master the wonder of shared computer screens—thank you, Mr Google—and trying to both independently, and at the same time, make models to show each other online to confirm that our ideas worked. These sessions often disintegrated into laughter when one or other of us failed miserably. Working with Maryanne was never dull, far from it.”
“She is so talented at coming up with new ideas and never one to shy from positive criticism and work through ways to improve. We often had to remind our teacher reviewers that we did want them to tell us when things just didn’t work for them or the students. We, however, were never shy to say to each other if something just wasn’t going to work. All was part of Maryanne’s determination to achieve the best resource available to assist NZ teachers and students alike.”
Maryanne explains what fuels her determination to write the best resources for New Zealand students: “Research is teaching us new things all the time about how students learn. Maths can be learnt by anyone but understanding it is crucial and has to be built like a wall. If the foundation blocks of understanding our number system are missing, then bricks put in later just fall to the ground. Students need to learn the basics, like tables and facts, while at the same time understanding maths and thinking mathematically. Computers are great for practising tables and checking knowledge, but not teaching mathematical thinking and understanding. For that [deep understanding], students need to write down logical thinking progressions or discuss their thinking as they work through their understanding. I advocate paper-based learning and open-ended questions and questions that require students both individually and in groups to think and justify and problem solve.”
Now semi-retired in the Marlborough Sounds, Maryanne can reflect on her 624,000 copies of resources sold to at least 85 per cent of the country’s schools. She has produced more educational books and teacher resources than any other New Zealand author.
On the eve of the investiture ceremony, Sue shared that “We will have a great time celebrating Maryanne’s achievements. She thoroughly deserves it.”
Article courtesy of Caxton Educational