“I sell a product to a market that does want it, but is forced by law to buy it.” –Dan Meyer
I teach math to high school pre-algebra, algebra and business math. Many students tell me how much they don’t like math, hence, I have self-educated myself in motivating them to give the math “language” a chance. Today, I was asked, with a sly smile, “when will we ever use this anyway?” John Bennett, in a TED Talk video, Why math instruction is unnecessary, has opened my answer to this question with a shift in my teaching. He said we should teach inductive reasoning to connect the math and make it relevant to the students. Solving problem like 5x – 3 = 27, 5x = 30, x = 6, using inductive reasoning, by learning this problem students will know how to solve problems like this in their lifetime. Bennett also suggested more logic puzzles and games to develop the analytical skills in students. I have been toying with this in my class and the students enjoy the challenge as they work in groups to figure out the puzzle. They tell me they hate math and yet the puzzle pull them right into focus. Even my toughest students are drawn like a magnet to the problem solving puzzles/enrichments.
My pre-algebra class is growing confident in math. As sixth graders they were terrified and now they laugh at the “strain your brain” days (new concepts taught). The students embrace the puzzles and enrichments; as groups they attack the puzzles and are proud of their accomplishments. I quickly do the assignments in class; I don’t copy the answer key, I create it in class. When the students finish their short assignment they grade it and turn it in. They know the key isn’t perfect and question my work. They come to me with math facts to prove they are right. I check over my work carefully and listen to their arguments and give them the privilege of correcting my work. I then announce to the class that one of the problems were wrong so those who marked it wrong would know that the key had an error. If I am right I give them the math fact to prove it. This procedure of grading their paper causes them to critique my work and think at the highest level with each assignment.
Dan Meyer gives a list of five symptoms of why traditional math is taught wrong 1) Lack of initiative, students don’t self-start, when you are done teaching hands go up for a reteach at the desk. 2) Lack of perseverance, 3) Lack retention 4) Aversion to word problems 5) Eagerness for a formula. This is the life I live with most of my students. I have made changes in my classroom that is awaking the students. By moving them into groups so they can collaborate and offering a puzzle/enrichment towards the end of each day as part of their assignment.
Meyer brings out a great point that “Math serves the conversation, the conversation does not serve the math”. Our math books guide our students straight through a problem and that takes the discovery out of learning. Meyer suggest teachers 1) Use multimedia 2) Encourage students intuition 3) Ask the shortest questions you can 4) Let students build the problem 5) Be less helpful. As teachers we need to awaken our students by first awakening ourselves and make the math serve the conversations. Through discovery/research our students will learn and retain more by discussing, building, investigating, designing and critiquing their/others work.
My teaching weakness is shifting to “where” and “how”. I haven’t quite figured this out. I have to learn how to teach the students how to continue making bricks without giving them the material to make it. I need to shift to asking the right questions to direct their learning by pulling this way of thinking out of the textbook to guide the research that will bring them to discovery of the concept.
With technology being what it is in our every day lives we have unlimited information at the tip of our fingers. Thomas and Brown state, “The where has always been present. In fact, it guides almost all our daily practices.” Our students are extremely tech savvy and we need to incorporate it into their learning.
My teaching needs a shift and with research I believe I can do the change. As Jonathan Matte said in his Ted talk, we just need to be exposed to a lot of ideas to harness what is already inside of us and we have to get it out of us. Matte suggests that we have to dig deep inside us because we won’t always be prompted with the right questions. We need to search for it ourselves.
Bennett, John. Why math instruction is unnecessary. TED Talks Retrieved October 9, 2015 from http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+math+teacher&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=39D03040A4F508DEB4E639D03040A4F508DEB4E6
Matte, Jonathan. The surprising beauty of mathematics. TED Talks. Retrieved on October 9, 2015 from http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talks+math+teacher&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=A6CE0570DA7538D6EE7EA6CE0570DA7538D6EE7E
Meyer, Dan. Math Class Needs a Makeover TED Talk. Retrieved on October 9, 2015 from http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Math+Class+Needs+a+Makeover+TED+Talk&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=E1BF47403F102E7CE388E1BF47403F102E7CE388
Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.