Changing how we think about maths education

How good were you in your maths class? If I had asked you this question in person, there’s a good chance that you would say that you just didn’t “get it”. That seems to be a common thought for many people… either the problems were boring, the material was difficult to understand, or the material didn’t seem very relevant.

These common complaints haven’t changed in years and probably even decades of teaching maths around the world. Interestingly enough, in other subjects, it seems that teaching has evolved to become more relevant and interesting, but in maths, change takes place more slowly.

Why is this? Is learning maths so unconnected to everything we do that it doesn’t seem to be important unless one wants to be an engineer or a maths teacher? This seems to be the prevailing attitude to many people that have finished their schooling. The only useful maths concept that most people seem to use is adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing…. But how tragic if all useful maths ended in Class III. This isn’t a very endearing indictment of the subject as a whole.

Pooja working individually.

But imagine that in maths class that you were able to learn skills such as problem-solving (this doesn’t mean just solving a maths problem), creativity, teamwork, calculating the most optimal solution, etc…  That the point of maths class wasn’t to learn as many formulae as possible to solve irrelevant problems, but instead a way to develop skills that could be beneficial in the future. Wouldn’t that make maths relevant to a student who isn’t headed for a career in engineering?

One type of skill that we’re trying to develop in our ALF maths classes is problem solving. This doesn’t just mean solving problems from the textbook, but instead using creativity, perseverance, and excellence to come up with the correct solution. So instead of just giving out formulas in our classes or have students copy work from the board, the students spend the majority of their time in class trying to work out difficult problems on their own they will cause them to use their resourcefulness.  Hopefully this skill will develop to the point where the student is able to problem solve in a variety of tasks through various spectrums of her life.

At Avasara, we hope to confront issues like this in order to create transformative schools that will nurture and prepare India’s brightest girls.

One comment

  1. “At Avasara, we hope to confront issues like this in order to create transformative schools that will nurture and prepare India’s brightest girls.” I wanted to wish you luck in this endeavor. It is so hard to make a change in teaching habits that have been replicated for generations. I know because I work with teachers within a district and the things you have mentioned above are the exact same things that we have discussed with our teachers within our district. It is not the teachers fault – it is how they have learned and it is how they were successful usually. The difference now is the climate in which our students are growing up in and the growing necessity of the skills that being able to apply mathematics supplies our students. Our teaching style has to change to meet the changing needs of our world.

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