A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to supply in a kidslink classroom. It was a grade 5 class with 6 boys. Upon my arrival I saw a note on the desk from the teacher explaining what to expect from my day. The one note on their said the boys love the math project that they are working on. Kids loving math? You don't hear this statement too often so it really peeked my interest. The students were working on a baseball project, where they would pick one baseball team and they would follow it. They would have to figure out players batting averages, on base percentage, balls and strike ratios and many more. When it came time for math I was pretty excited to see this project in action. I told the students it was time for math and I was met with some groans and boos. I thought to myself that this was strange considering the teachers note. I said to the students "Your teacher told me that you loved math, is this not true?" They responded with their hatred for the subject. I thought to myself, oh well the day must go on. I asked the students to take out their baseball projects and they looked confused. One student asked "I thought you said we were going to work on math? Our baseball project aren't math." I then realized that the students did not see these project as learning projects, they were just having fun keeping stats on their favourite baseball teams. The teacher had made learning fractions, ratios, multiplication and division fun for her students by connecting her lesson to the students interest.
This made me think back to an experience with one of my relatives. He really struggled with math all through elementary and secondary school. It got to the point where he almost did not make it into the college program he wanted because of his math marks. He was able to get into the program and that's where he math grades made a dramatic turn around. He ended up having one of the top math marks in his class. I asked him what the difference was between his college program and high school. He told me the biggest change was that the examples given related to his field which he was really interested in and which he understood well. I thought to myself, that can't be the only change. Being interested in the examples could not have that big of an impact.
My experience in the teaching profession has told me that this is really the case. If the student is interested and engaged with the examples given they will have greater success. We as educators need to be able to pick up on our students interests and incorporate them as much as we can into our classrooms.