Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rethinking What We Teach as Math Teachers and How We Teach it

When I read Jessica Lahey's article about Steve Strogatz,Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University  teaching an introductory math course for non-math majors who hate math, I am saddened.  Strogatz has his students submit a math biography outlining their math encounters throughout their life.  He shares that his Liberal Arts students have had unpleasant math experiences and they blame themselves for not understanding math, they feel they are not intelligent enough or talented enough to do math.  Strogatz (and others) teach an inquiry based math program at Cornell University to Liberal Arts students to help them see math in a different light and feel good about themselves and math. He states with the right approach he has been able to turn students views about math around.  He feels this turn around is related to how the math is delivered to these students.  The program he delivers is called Discovering the Art of Mathematics: Mathematical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts.  If you follow the previous link there are student testimonials, quotes and videos describing the experiences they have had in their Cornell math class in comparison to their prior math experiences in high school. 

I believe these messages are important messages for us as secondary teachers to hear. Sometimes I think teachers don't always stop and realized just how much they can affect their students.  Rethinking how we teach math and ensuring we do our best to reach every student using multiple means is important. Taking the extra time can put students on one future path or another, all because of the experience they have had in a classroom. Here is a video of Strogatz at Cornell with students who enjoy math and are studying Applied Math to use in pursuit of future careers.

1 comment:

  1. A very good article. I agree that many students believe that math is too hard and may quit too soon. I do think that students who have difficulty in math, must be encouraged not to give up. They should be told that they actually know some math and teachers can build on what they know.