About Me

My name is Jacob Merrill and I’m a primary teacher in Norfolk, UK. Early on in my career, I searched for ways to make maths lessons more investigative in nature with conjecturing and inquiry as core elements. I was encouraged further upon viewing Dan Finkel’s TED talk on 5 Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching. I have watched it countless times over the years and it continues to provide significant motivation for what maths teaching could (and should) be like. The principle of ‘Saying yes to students’ ideas’ was perhaps the most significant catalyst to focusing on the idea of children asking ‘What if…?’. Whilst I had individual successes, I felt that I lacked a consistent approach that ensured depth in lessons. Andrew Blair and his website Inquiry Maths inspired me further to think about how similar results could be achieved in primary schools.

I sought to deepen my understanding by becoming a Primary Maths Specialist (MaST). It was through this that I came across John Mason and the eight mathematical powers of Specialising and Generalising, Comparing and Classifying, Conjecturing and Convincing and Imagining and Expressing and Malcolm Swan’s book, Collaborative Learning in Mathematics. As part of my course, I explored ways of reducing the barriers to children conjecturing. I found that although there was the perception that not all children were capable of thinking in this way, that was not the case in reality.

I continued my research by undertaking an MA in Education at the University of Northampton and focused my dissertation on how to develop children’s range and proficiency of mathematical reasoning processes in an inquiry context. This is where I came up with the first version of my posters – albeit without the analogy of exploring an island. The opportunity came to work as a primary maths lecturer at the University of Brighton for a short while and I was able to learn a lot from some amazing people there. Upon returning to the classroom, and further reflection, it evolved into the Isles of What If…?

I’m sure things will continue to evolve in the future. I hope so. I’d love to hear comments, whether positive, negative or any other thoughts. You can drop me a comment on here or on Twitter.

Keep exploring!