Rebranding Math

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Andrew Morris, 2016.

New Year, New Problems

As the new school year begins, the coverage in the media has quickly switched from back-to-school excitement to current issues in education. The most popular news comes on the back of the latest results from the EQAO testing which revealed a decrease in mathematics scores. The Canadian Press (2016) reports that this year, in Ontario, only 50% of students achieved a score at the math standard – a drop from the 58% in 2012. As a result, the government has put forward a 60-million-dollar plan to improve students’ test scores in mathematics. There is much to say about this (including my opinion on standardized testing), but check it out the link to explore some more about this plan. As I head back to the first ever* second year of teacher’s college, this news is extremely relevant and important.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

It is not unusual to hear how much students hate math class. In the above video, we can hear the negative opinions and beliefs about math and even gain some insight to how they are formed. Quite simply, students find math useless and difficult. This can lead to a cyclical process where students receive poor grades in math leading to decreased self-efficacy and increased perceptions of difficulty which again lead back to poor results. Another aspect are the stereotypes and perceptions associated with mathematics. North American media often portrays math as a negative subject and math is often stereotyped as a subject for boys, not for girls. Many people also believe that they are not a “math person” (which is just not true). My point is, there are multiple factors that contribute to this perpetual distaste and hate for math. However, the outlook for educators shouldn’t be bleak. In the Discovery Education video above, we hear that students who enjoy math enjoyed it because of what their teachers did! Change in attitude and standardize testing results will always require support from multiple environments in a student’s life, but there is at least one intervention point that we have control over – our classrooms.

Next Steps / Reflection

Where do we often go wrong? One of my classmates, Aaron Strong, suggested that math is often taught in a “vacuum” and is isolated from other subjects. This vacuum implicitly creates irrelevancy for students – math is meaningless. I also believe that this is a huge issue in our math education today. Change in the way teachers approach math will not be easy. There are many in-service teachers that are very set in their ways of teaching. As pre-service teachers I think we have an increased responsibility to bring new and fresh ideas to our schools.

This week has been useful in reopening my mind to the strategies I need to use to increase my resource pool and start thinking about math from an integrative viewpoint. As we continue to explore math this year, I will blog about the ways in which I hope to rebrand math because: (1) anyone can do it, (2) it is applicable in our lives and (3) yes, it can be fun!

– A

*My cohort is the first to enter a new two-year Bachelor of Education program in Ontario. Previously, the B.Ed. was achievable in one year of study.

References:

Discovery Education (2015). How do you really feel about math? YouTube Video.

The Canadian Press (2016). Only 50% of Grade 6 students met the province’s math standard.

Queen’s Printer of Ontario (2016). A renewed strategy for math.

 

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2 thoughts on “Rebranding Math

  1. Thanks for sharing the video Andrew; I will need to share it with my colleague!

    The video highlights the need for change in our math classrooms. Teacher attitudes and practice contribute to students’ perceptions of the subject. The fact that one student in the video said, “there is only one answer” demonstrates that classrooms require more rich tasks in which there is no one answer or where the answer isn’t obvious (it requires investigation and thinking about the problem).

    One student said that she wanted to be a doctor so she needed math; my question is, “how can we make her recognize the mathematics involved in being a doctor?” This is why we need to provide ‘real life’ scenarios and problems to our students that are meaningful and relevant.

    Another individual talked about how he wished he knew the “why” of math, which reminds us that math s should not be taught using rote methods; “why does this formula work? What do numbers really mean?”

    Besides teachers, parents also have a very significant impact on student attitudes; we need to discourage parents from transferring their fear and hate of math onto their children; there were many times I heard parents say to me, “I was never a math person. I hated math so I understand why my child does.” Yikes!
    It was a learning opportunity for parents as well and we need to provide them with strategies so they don’t show their negative attitudes towards math to their children.

    Shelly 🙂

    Like

  2. Pingback: Don’t Call Me “Smart”! | AJ Morris Teacher

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