Just about all of us have been there: that one dreaded math class that feels like a drag on your whole day. For some people, that’s been just about every math class. And for others, we’ve almost never been there (myself included). This typically stark contrast in outlook on math makes me wonder at what point does math education becomes less fun and surprising and more confusing and mind numbing?
Our recent discussions on critical pedagogy, made me realize that the biggest issue is framing. A lot of math classes take on the same form: topic introduction, repetitive practice, testing/assessment. Although most math classes take on this form, some are more bearable than others. So, what is the difference? It must be the framing. Here, by framing, I refer to how material is presented and the attitude used to approach it. For some people, the idea of learning a method and finding different ways to repetitively use it is mentally stimulating enough to stay interested. I find myself in this group of people; it’s like learning a new rule in a puzzle game and you get to play puzzles all day. However, for others, this is a nightmare. This kind of framing hearkens back to the need to educate students to repetitively carry out a task to be successful in assembly lines which were integral to the work force in the 1920’s.
With the rise of technology, this sort of student is no longer needed and repetition no longer provides students with the skills they need. Consequently, our framing of education, in general, needs to change as well. We no longer need that repetitive driving of knowledge into students’ minds. Instead, we should be constantly finding ways to incorporate different teamwork, critical thinking, and diverse problem solving skills. Our framing of education should be done in a way that can still excite students, whether it be game-style lectures, problem/project-based learning, or simply reworking/rewriting traditional lectures to include relevant topics to students. Of course, this is easier said than done, but I believe simply making an effort will make a world of difference. So drop that textbook you’ve been teaching from for the past however many years, and find a new way for students to discover information instead of trying to cram it in their heads.
At what point did the framing of your math classes become boring or unbearable for you (if it ever did)? If it didn’t, what kept the fun going for you?
Math Joke of the day: You might think my calculus jokes are derivative, but they are an integral part of me.
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