Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Lost in Translation September 6, 2017

Filed under: General Math — Focus on Math @ 3:17 pm

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What is a student really saying when he or she says, “I hate math!”?

To hear someone make the statement, “I hate math!” is, unfortunately, not uncommon. In fact, it is not restricted just to students, but parents, neighbours, and, yes, even educational colleagues say this, too. But what are people really saying with that declaration? For all my experience I believe that what they really are saying is “I don’t get math.” And of course, when folks do not “get math”, then they are generally not good at it, only increasing and solidifying their dislike.

That means the onus is on those of us who teach math to do so in such a manner that allows learners to truly make sense of numbers. Math is supposed to make sense for everyone! Never allow the words to come out of your mouth, “You don’t have to understand this — just do it like this,”  while showing an algorithm that is meaningless to students. That is how the “not getting math” is perpetrated and we need to stop that now. If you want to stop the “I hate math” mentality, then you must teach math for understanding. Don’t settle for anything less.

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3 Responses to “Lost in Translation”

  1. Nicole Scott Says:

    We are trying to make math more present on our Campus. When you walk on our campus you can tell we value reading but we want our students to know we value Math too. Any ideas on how to make Math more visible on a campus.

    • I am assuming you are referring to an elementary school (for instance, Kindergarten through grade 5, 6, or 7. I would begin by asking you this: how is is obvious that reading is valued? Are there bulletin boards showing books to read or images from stories?

    • I am assuming you are referring to an elementary school (for instance, Kindergarten through grade 5, 6, or 7. I would begin by asking you this: how is is obvious that reading is valued? Are there bulletin boards showing books to read or images from stories?
      are there posters and art work? What is displayed, said, or done that highlights reading to the observer? Identify those and then try to make parallel things for math. There are math art activities that can be displayed, and interesting math visuals around math vocabulary or principles that can be shown. What about displaying graphs of class data? For instance, what if every class polled students on a particular question (e.g., “What is your favourite ______?”) and displayed their data. It might be interesting to note how preferences changed from younger children to older children. So again I would encourage you to think about what is there to tell folks you value reading and then try to give math equal billing.


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