Today, students hold the impression that memorising math facts and getting the correct answers fast are the things that make you good at Mathematics. Students who believe this often become stressed, causing them to not use their full thinking capacity. Lacking flexible thinking, they get stuck, stop and underachieve.
Students are feeling a disconnection between math and the real world. Classrooms are focused on mastering calculation skills and raw memorisation of math facts. The sad truth is that, often, learning is happening by chance. These are the reasons math is one of the most disliked and even feared school subjects among students.
At the same time, the World Economic Forum states that the skills needed in the workplaces are; complex problem solving, critical thinking, coordinating with others, cognitive flexibility and creativity. The correct teaching and learning of Mathematics can help to develop these skill, but what do we need to be changed in the content and teaching of math in order for this to become a reality?
Let’s wake up student’s interest and love for Math
1. Instead of putting students to sit in rows, begin to vary how students are working: individually, pairs and in groups. Change from a teacher centered method of instruction to a student-centered way of learning. This will broaden the scope for learning. You are giving them a chance to practice their own math language – they can talk, compare and debate the solution to math problems.
2. Use more learning by doing and social learning – teaching and learning methods. We have a huge amount of opportunities to use learning by doing; modelling, classification, compare & combine, constructions of solids, action tasks, investigations and content creation. Many of these activities allow social learning to take place.
3. The structure of math lessons seems to be very fixed and similar all over the world. What about starting the new concepts in a different way, for example, by giving students some problems related to the new content? Too often, we tell students new concepts and also their qualities. What has happened to the joy of learning math? Have we taken it away for no reason? At the same time, students think that math is boring, meaningless and even frightening.
4. All above can be difficult to do if you don’t have proper material. Start with real-life connections. In statistics, start with students collecting data from their own life. In the beginning, you can give them a collection of statistics from newspapers. Offer guidance when they are doing questions about themselves and each other (make sure that axis etc. are being notified). What is the number of students in the classroom? How many pets and what kind of pets? How did you arrive to school today? What kind of data are they interested in? Just ask!
5. We can personalise math in so many ways. When students are working in groups, we can give different tasks to the members of the groups depending on their abilities. We can give them different individual tasks or quizzes, investigations, or projects. This can be very rewarding for individuals or even pairs. Students have more time to concentrate on the theme or problem. The teacher can give the themes, or students can choose their own problem. What if dinosaurs were to live among us again? Draw them in the same scenery as the biggest building in your neighbourhood. Investigate the waste management of your family.
Math is fascinating. Let’s make it fun again for our students!
By Maarit Rossi
Mrs. Rossi is a Math teacher, principal and CEO of Paths to Math Ltd. She was one of the top 10 finalists in Global Teacher Prize 2016. She is one of the Top Teacher Bloggers in The Global Search for Education by C M Rubin. Twitter: @pathstomath & www.pathstomath.com