Where did it go wrong?

Posted by France, Uncategorized on Feb 16, 2016

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?

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9 Comments

  1. pball1
    21 February 2016

    France, an excellent piece considering the language barriers that you have, I think you have an excellent grasp of the english language. I think structure is a very important aspect to maintain in the concept of schools and teaching as children (and indeed adults) need boundaries. Arguably, even more so when a child has few or no boundaries imposed in their home life.

    • fbontemps
      23 February 2016

      Thanks Phil, absolutely right I love structure as it gives me more confidence to tackle challenging things. It also helps me to keep within a specified framework.

  2. Charli
    22 February 2016

    A lovely piece, France. I really like your point about group work and collaboration for maths. Isn’t it such a shame that without egos getting in the way, the world of mathematics could possibly be so much more advanced? I think an awareness of the different backgrounds and family situations is a really important issue to consider and could produce a lesson or syllabus with different hooks to see a whole student cohort reach their full potential. I agree that neither stimulus fully summed up the problem or solution. Great think piece!

    • fbontemps
      23 February 2016

      Yep, where did it go wrong? Sharing is caring. In the video, I think he mentioned about everyone has the potential, particularly with regards to divergent thinking; exploring different methods with different students, could possible help, but for how long would a teacher adopt this process with a difficult student? That’s where, perhaps the teacher’s vocation plays a vital role.

  3. aw677
    22 February 2016

    France you make some really interesting points, it is fascinating to note that sometimes it is not just a traditional education and consequential expectations that shape our experience at school but sometimes a cultural one too.

    • fbontemps
      23 February 2016

      Culture definitely contributes. My experience in the Police Force made it clear that success sometimes can only be possible when there is the spirit of togetherness; “two is better than one”. Thanks!

  4. Ray
    22 February 2016

    It was interesting to hear your explanation of how the way you were taught maths influenced your choice of degree, Your memory of individual working in a competitive environment differs from my own experience. I’ve seen the benefits of group working in both my education and in work environments and so, to me, the challenge is how to integrate that into the modern school environment.

    • fbontemps
      23 February 2016

      Hi Ray, you are right when I joined the paramilitary and the Police after, I learnt about the importance of Team work particularly on “never leave anyone behind”. When we did group task, i.e. climbing hills within set times, we all have to reach the summit together otherwise we are all disqualified. I think this is something I would try to implement in the classroom as well. Many thanks!

  5. pepsmccrea
    23 February 2016

    Strong first thinkpiece France. You are immediately trying to make sense of it through the lens of your own rich educational experience. Don’t be afraid to look for holes in the arguments presented.

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