I am quite sure that every teacher has at one point of his/her career heard from the children “Where do we need this Math?” Making Math fun for every child Making Math fun for every child Making Math fun for every child
Actually it is not a strange question if you think what kind of Math they are working with.
Have you ever counted number of lessons students spent in Math classroom during their basic education? Have you counted how many lessons of Math they have during one week, one month, one school year and totally during eight to nine years of basic education? What if the structure of the lesson is from the ancient history!
Students are sitting in rows. Teacher is coming to the classroom and first the homework is checked. After that the teacher is showing the new content and doing some examples on the board. Then students are practicing individually similar tasks. In the end of lesson the teacher will give homework. And, year after year – this same way of learning repeats.
Have we updated the methods and contents in Math?
In PISA (2016), students were asked about the frequency with which their teachers use student-oriented or teacher-directed strategies in their lessons. Findings indicate that today, teacher-directed practices are used widely. Across OECD countries, eight out of ten students reported that their teachers tell them 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. But what about student –centered active learning?
Today being “good at school” means, for too many students, knowing how to play the game of the school. Maths seems to use more models where we are telling them step-by-step instruction on how to do something. We all know that students are motivated by what interests them. Asking questions instead of memorizing answers is one feature to motivate them. But it is not enough. We have to show them where math is used around them. We have to give them possibilities to discover and find solutions in different kind of problems. They also have to have the possibility to work together and understand that power of the team can easily be stronger than findings of an individual person.
Combining the theory to students life
How some of the textbooks start teaching for example, statistics? Usually, first examples and the data are about other, imaginary students! Textbook trains students to read line graphs and bar charts. Then come calculations of mean, median, mode and range. All have to be calculated individually! And contents are little too pretentious, far from students own life.
If you want to make students interested in math and have fun, they have to take part in their own learning. We teachers value the same things in our professional development as students – and it’s not sitting and getting. Learning by doing suits for all ages and by my experience it contributes to deeper understanding. So here, basic learning happens when they can collect data on their own!
Asking questions instead of memorizing answers is one feature to motivate students. But it is not enough. We have to show them where math is used around them. We have to give them possibilities to discover and find solutions in different kind of problems.
How to start statistics?
- Instead of sitting in rows students sit in groups.
- I had collected huge amount of different diagrams from newspapers. Every group got different kind of and many diagrams.
- Their first task was to read and interpret them.
- The second task was that every member had to choose one statistic and make a question of it. Other members answered and this was how they were practicing the reading of statistics.
- In the next step the group had to choose one diagram, make a question of it and come to ask it in front of the classroom. Students took the role of the teacher. They asked and gave feedback to the questioner.
- At the same time I make my observations how groups were working.
- On that basis, in the next step, I gave every group an own and different task.The task was to collect all the data from the classroom. They had to decide who will collect the data, how they’ll mark it, and what kind of diagram they will use.
- Tasks groups were:
o How many sibling students have?
o How each one of them came to school during that day?
o What kind of pets they have?
o What is their birth date?
And so on…
- In the next lesson I taught them how to make the diagram in excel. Students were so excited to put their data into the same format like the ones in real newspapers.
- In the end they sent their diagram to me by OneDrive.
This is how they can practice the 21st century skills in Math!
Every student was involved. Everyone was successful. They could share their ideas & learn from each other. Math was meaningful for them. Math was interesting & connected to own life. It seemed that they even had fun!