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Have you ever met a person who would proudly tell you that she/he cannot read or write?

Is this a strange question? Have you ever met a person who would tell you that he/she cannot do Maths, because his/her mother also did not understand Maths?

I have heard it many times. People give all kinds of explanations why Maths is impossible to learn and I understand.

The traditional view of a classroom that has existed for generations in schools around the world, consists of students sitting by their desks, passively listening as the teacher stands in the front of the class and lectures. The teacher knows the content that, she/he has planned for the lesson and delivers it to the students.  Students are expected to absorb that content and apply it to their homework or a test. This form of teaching isn’t limited to Maths. It is a teaching strategy that everyone has experienced as a student at one time or another.

In PISA, students were asked about the frequency with which their teachers use student-oriented or teacher-directed strategies in their lessons. Across OECD countries, eight out of ten students reported that their teachers tell them exactly what they have to learn in every lesson, and seven out of ten students have teachers who ask questions in every lesson to check that students understand what they’re learning.

Teachers reported that the most commonly used student-oriented practice is assigning students to different work based on their ability, on the other hand, according to students, this practice is used only occasionally.

So it seems that most of what’s happening in Maths lessons are mainly teacher-directed and little or no student-oriented learning. Student-oriented methods encourage students to work cooperatively with others, as well as working independently on tasks and problems based on their abilities and interests. It seems that there is a need to develop both independent learning and cooperative learning in Mathematics classrooms. When working with students, I have noticed that the more they discover on their own, the more willing they are to work even harder.

  1. It is better to have double lessons that are at least 90 minutes long. If the length of the lesson is an hour or less, the structure of the lesson tends to be the same as it has been for centuries. A longer lesson lends itself to greater flexibility on the part of the teacher and allows students to delve deeper into any given topic.
  2. Allow students to work in groups. When students are work in groups, it supports them in finding a different way of thinking and different solutions to the same problem. Students learn to appreciate another person’s way to finding solutions, which are often different from their own.
  3. Give students more space and more time to talk. Even if they make mistakes, as teachers we should sometimes be silent. We need to give more learning responsibilities to the students.
  4. Content is still crucial. Ensure that there is a variety of material that allows student to be able to access the content. Students need to learn Maths by exploring and finding alternative ways of solving problems, making connections, adopting different perspectives and looking for meanings.
  5. Evaluate the students’ learning in a variety of ways. For the teacher, a cooperative learning environment can be rewarding, because observing students working together is a great way to find out what students really know and understand.

Click here to register for the upcoming Middle East Maths Teachers Conference in Dubai on February 24th, 2018. 

By: Maarit Rossi