I’ve been using current affairs in my classrooms for years. It’s a great way to engage students and create a hook for introducing a topic or assist in applying their mathematical understanding. In Core Maths, I’ve tended to use them as a starter as a graph or article from the news is perfect for practising critical analysis.

Last year, I’d started to notice that the current affairs starters I was using were generally negative, or the class would highlight the negative aspect of it. This was affecting their engagement. Once they’d spotted something negative, there was an inclination to switch off from further analysis and the mathematics associated with it.

But was this my fault? Was I selecting the ‘wrong’ news? Did this reflect the world we live in? Or did I naturally seek out or respond to the negative articles or interpretations? Either way, there was something I could do about it. Good news is out there! So, I made a conscious effort to look at current affairs with a positive slant.

It was an effort to start with, as it seemed that news websites mainly reported more negative news.

However, once I’d forced myself to hunt around for good news and discovered outlets which focus on the positive, the length of time that it takes me to prepare a lesson has barely changed. While this positive news can come from anywhere, I’ve tended to use two websites: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org and https://www.positive.news.

It’s about framing. For example, there’s been many articles about pub, club and venue closures in the media recently. This context is relevant to many of our students, so how about starting from a positive viewpoint by looking at what is already being done to improve the situation.

One piece of good news I used recently was about the successful efforts to increase the tiger population in Nepal. I made a starter sheet for my Animal Management colleagues to use at the start of their lessons, and added the following questions to the end of it for students to work on:

1. What is the multiplier for 190% increase?
2. How many tigers were there in Nepal in:
1. 2015?
1. 2009?
3. Estimate the size of Nepal in square kilometres.
4. Estimate how many members of staff were employed on the survey. Show your reasoning.
5. There is a target to double the number of tigers worldwide. Use the information above and your own ideas to:
1. Suggest that the target is being met.
1. Suggest that the target is not being met.

Anecdotally, the students have responded. They engaged more with the topic and the rest of the lesson, and I feel their critical analysis has improved as well as their willingness to analyse overall. This has become a virtuous circle as I’m then more likely to use good news in the next lesson.

By James Maloney