Where did it go wrong?
The impression that both authors seem to project is that mathematics has not been fairly exposed and explored by teachers at schools level. Our education system seems to be based on a rigid structure or framework (i.e. economic and cultural), for instance, children are placed into age groups, ringing bells which is still conformed to the factory era, working in groups quasi-inexistent, thus making the subject unattractive to children whose concentration level or aptitude, aesthetic experience or illumination, differs from others.
To a certain extent, I can relate to this method of learning as my country of origin, Mauritius, is still doing GCE 0 Level instead of GCSE. I remember that high scores in Mathematics were associated with how many accurate answers student could achieved. As mentioned in the article, the misconception that mathematics was about precision and not about estimates and guesses; in fact, the correlation between the two was never alluded. Perhaps, if I was exposed to a different approach of maths I could have chosen my first degree in Mathematics instead of following the midtown certified public accountants that I knew into Accounting & Finance. There is the saying that you can’t give what you don’t have, my maths teacher did what he could with what he had at that point in time and I am grateful for that.
Besides, I was taught in a competitive environment where group works didn’t have its place, so I wasn’t exposed to other ways of problem solving and I was completely alienated from the terms ‘mathematical exploration’. However, I never thought mathematicians sometimes prefer to work in collaboration in the production of ideas. Batmanghelidjh states, “Individual achievement without incorporating the vulnerable of the society is a myth, the consequences is that you ended in an encapsulating glass jar… and in the end you died of lack of oxygen”. An analogy can be made with Fermat’s enigma which is dated 350 years, could his enigma be proved or disproved if mathematicians had decided to tackle the problem together? In the video and the article, the reproach is about the impoverished teaching and the inability of maths teachers to make the subject relevant to our current situation; could it be that if the level of collaboration in maths classes made mathematics more appealing, giving a sense of achievement and pride?
And how about divergent thinking? Margaret Wertheim (p.4), expressed the genuine sentiment about her Maths teacher which prone to suggest that teachers can make real impact on their students for life; while some would just occupy a brief souvenir, others would shape their future. If mathematics is a study of patterns, perhaps observing and acting on students behaviours in class and going the extra mile (marginal) such as being aware of students’ personal background and family issues.
Both resources beautifully highlight the needs for restructuring the educational system, particular with regards to the way mathematics is being taught at schools. But they didn’t consider factors such as why some students excel at maths while some don’t? Could mathematics teachers go beyond student poor performances?