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# How talking about maths suddenly became easier – The Toast Model from a parent’s perspective

A parent who regularly attends our events has been trying out the Toast Model at home. Read on to hear first-hand the impact it is having on their learning…

My daughter was at the table, pen in hand, trying to figure out a maths activity. It was supposed to be fun – learning fun. But tension was rising. It wasn’t plain sailing, or maybe she wasn’t in the mood. She might burst out or give up at any moment, and I just don’t want these small incidents to accumulate, as they undermine confidence.

This has happened before, and I know we are not the only ones! It happens with friends too, for all sorts of reasons. Pushy parents forging ambitions before the child is ready… Parents bemused by the school’s new ways of teaching…

I used to find it difficult to defuse the situation quickly enough. But no need this time. My daughter just turned around and incredibly calmly said: ‘Mama, where is that circle chart again?’ I held my breath, took a sheet out from a pile of papers: ‘Do you mean this one, with the blue and green and red colours, The Growth Zone Model?’ ‘Yes that one! See, Mama, this problem is here, in the red zone. I need something a bit easier first.’.

That was it. No tears, no sinking heart, no walking away. And on my side, no ‘Oh dear, what have I done again?’.

Since then ‘our’ diagram is still on the fridge. My daughter coloured the challenge zone in blue, her favourite colour, on the grounds that ‘that’s where we want to be when we learn’. She also renamed the ‘threat zone’ to the ‘red zone’ because after all, it is just uncharted territory that will some day be conquered. I really liked how she changed her outlook that way. Maybe one day a mighty obstacle will remind us that the model dealt with a threat feeling, but for now we prefer not to.

And of course, the red zone is infinite, we will enjoy a whole life of learning, hopefully!

We found the Toast Model to be a simple but beautiful concept:

• It’s a great addition to illustrate how we all need to go through challenges. My daughter loves to show with large hand gestures how much her comfort zone has expanded since she was born, absorbing this and that, from swimming to maths problems!
• It’s proved a powerful tool to help recognise and say when things are too hard, safe in the knowledge that it’s a natural part of life. So that we can re-adjust, take a few extra steps on the way, and preserve the eagerness to learn and confidence of everyone involved.