How can I make Maths more engaging and relevant?

October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Great question mentioned by @robmarchetto

Let’s look at some quotes from Professor Jo Boaler from Stanford University:

When real Mathematics is taught – problem solving, creating ideas, exploring puzzles and discussing methods then many students succeed.

Students have the potential to be more engaged when a teacher brings passion to the classroom. I’ve always been inspired by the learning culture of High Tech High. It turns out that teachers actually lead the way as learners. The organisational structure is such that teachers can collaborate, receive mentoring, participate in learning groups and are provided with feedback.

High Tech High places a high emphasis on public exhibition. Students will be more engaged if they complete work that matters.

The teachers model learning and then replicate that in the learning spaces.   Watch this video and catch a glimpse. Now teachers don’t have the ability to change the organisational structure of a school however they can create aspects of the HTH model by participating in teachmeets, on twitter and with blogs. This then leads to teachers being exposed to other ideas of what could engage learners. We are embarking on a problem based approach to the teaching and learning of Maths at NBCS. This means that students will begin with a scenario, problem or puzzle rather than a lecture. They will get stuck. They will get really stuck. What should I do when I can’t clearly see the next step? I like this summary. There are loads of people who are asking interesting problems and Geoff Krall has compiled some amazing problem based work. 

There are two versions of Maths in the lives of people; the strange and boring subject that they endured in the classroom and the interesting set of creative ideas that is Maths in the real world.

These are some interesting starting points to see Maths in the real world. Sometimes though, there won’t be easy connections to the real world and it doesn’t really help to make forced connections. I have seen more successful engagement when students are faced with a  ‘need-to-know’. They ask authentic questions and have a better chance of developing their personal interest.

Students need to solve ill-structured problems, ask many forms of questions and to use, adapt and apply methods.

There are very few schools that boast of offering a Maths class that is full of ‘ill-structured problems’. No teacher wants that. No parent wants that. Students needs a lecture, three examples and then they can answer questions from the text-book. That’s learning. What does a teacher need to let go of so that they feel good about providing students with open ended problems? Ron Ritchhart from Harvard provides some good food for thought.



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