Nat Banting: Re-imagining Math Learning

Some footage used in this video was filmed prior to the pandemic and may not depict social distancing measures.

Transcription – Nat Banting- 2021 Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM

[Photo, with voice over. Photo: A teacher and students writing on the board and music playing.]

"I really do feel at home in my school hallways, in my classroom, in the gym during lunchtime. The school is where I love to be…

[Cut to Nat in the interview setting.]

"…and it does give me that rush. Like I really, really enjoy teaching mathematics."

[Fade to white with a medium shot of man, smiling, on the right side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the left: Nat Banting, Marion M. Graham Collegiate, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cut to close-up of Nat in the interview setting. Music playing.]

"I think at its very core my teaching style is very active. It's very energetic and engaged. I like to get the kids moving around. I like to get them intersecting with each other, and sharing and bouncing ideas off one another. But if I were to choose sort of one phrase that would describe everything I try to build into my practice it would be decision making. My goal as a teacher is to always throw students into that active place where they're the ones making those mathematical decisions. And so I'm trying to build the environments, and those opportunities for decisions top become relevant."

[Fade to black and then up to Nat in the interview setting.]

"We have an incredible opportunity. We deal with so much possibility. Like we are intersecting with like potential at every given moment. And no two students think exactly alike. And if you provide them with the space to make those decisions you can be surprised."

[Cut to photo, with voice over. Photos: Nat pointing to a screen with a math problem.]

I think if you dictate every decision that's made and students end up following more directions you get a very sort of constrained and rightly controlled teaching space."

[Cut to Nat in the interview setting.]

"But one of the parts of the job that I love the absolute most is when students surprise me. When I think that comes out of left field I don't have to pretend like that is new and novel thinking. It genuinely hits me kind of off-kilter, and now I have to adjust on the fly and really kind of listen and interrogate like what they're doing and what sense they've made."

[Fade to black and then cut to photo, with voice over. Photos: Nat and three students at the board working on a fraction problem; Nat teaching in front of a classroom.]

I think you really have to enjoy thinking sideways. Because in the profession there's also a lot of tradition, and a lot of status quo. And so often times relentlessly pursuing student understanding, and the status quo of math education are diametrically opposed."

[Cut to Nat in the interview setting.]

"Pursuing what's students' interest first and foremost can be really hard work. It can be really heavy work emotionally and practically. But it's important work. And so you have to love it. And so if you enjoy those moments where you are innovating, and thinking sideways I think your students will benefit from that in ways that you can't possibly imagine. And that work will pay off in the end."

[Fade to black and then up to photo with voice over. Photos: Nat and three students sitting at desks working on a math problem; Nat in the classroom talking with students]

I am most proud when I see my students making a mathematical breakthrough. When they have that moment went things fall into place. Those are the moments where they're not out loud, proud moments…"

[Cut to Nat in the interview setting.]

"…but they are introspective, proud moments for me as I watch these learners grow in mathematical sophistication."

[Fade to black, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in white.]

Year: 2021 — Province: Saskatchewan
Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Marion M. Graham Collegiate
Grades 9 – 12 - mathematics
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


“I am one of many students, past and present, who have had the privilege to be in Mr. Banting’s class. That experience not only affected my view of mathematics, but also the way I view education and the world around me. His teaching methods introduced me to the love of mathematics, but more importantly, also prepared me to succeed as a learner long after leaving his classroom.”

former student

Teaching Approach

What sets Nat apart from other innovators in his field is his fervent dedication to re-visioning the profession, beginning with the junctions that have often been overlooked - the relationships between learners and mathematical meaning, between the students within the classrooms, between the teachers, and between the wider public and meaningful mathematical experiences. His efforts are about innovating at these crossroads. He elevates the potential of teaching and learning mathematics.

In the Classroom

For many Canadians, the mathematics classroom evokes a very specific set of memories: symbolic choreography performed quietly in neat rows, with questions such as “Why?” and “What if?” too often suppressed in favour of formal procedures and the tidy, repeated exercises that have long served as the hallmark of many a school math program. Since the beginning of his career, Nat has pushed against this norm by modeling a vibrant, connected alternative to teaching and learning mathematics.

One can only describe Nat’s classes with one word: dynamic. His students move around the room, discuss, troubleshoot, and arrive at solutions to the problems he has set out for them to investigate. He places students in the role of active producers of mathematics, rather than passive recipients. When students are placed in the position of making meaningful mathematical decisions, rather than simply following the pre-determined decisions of the teacher, they gain access to the rich connections that mathematics has to offer.

Outstanding achievements

Recently, in an effort to bring classrooms together for a playful mathematics experience amidst the COVID confinement, Nat adapted the mathematics board game MULTI into a digital format and invited classrooms to play against one another province-wide. He facilitated the games for close to 100 Saskatchewan classrooms in what he coined the 2020 Saskatchewan Mathematics Invitational Tournament. The tournament received rave reviews from both teachers and students engaging in heated debate over their next move and creating copies of the game to challenge friends and family. The outcomes for students are increased autonomy, confidence, and leadership skills. Nat’s energy and dedication are truly contagious.

Nat has a big presence in the internet math community. In 2019, his work drew attention from the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences, which made him the first practicing classroom teacher to receive the prestigious Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award recognizing innovation and excellence in mathematics education. He received this honour, in part, for his ability to explore new possibilities as a mathematics teacher in a digital age. Nat’s pupils are the first beneficiaries of his forward-looking approaches.

Get in touch!

Marion M. Graham Collegiate
602 Lenore Drive
Saskatoon, SK  S7K 6A6