Pragmatic vs theoretical
I found Dan Meyer’s talk very interesting and quite pleasant. I particularly like the lightheartedness with which he highlights some of the truths behind the world of education.
As a teacher, I would also like my students to engage, to understand and to be eager to know more. Why?
First, because I like math and I would like to share my enthusiasm for this subject with my students, to show them how beautiful this completely human construct is. In order to do this, I need to keep my motivation high. I do not want to feel like, as Meyer brilliantly conveyed, ‘I am selling a product to a market that doesn’t want to buy, but it is forced by law to buy it.’ I want to sell Iphones (not literally, I still think I am on the right course) and I want my students to queue up for wanting more.
Second, and more importantly, in Meyer’s words, we all are ‘going to retire in a world run by our students.’ This statement, although just a joke, tells the truth about how important and how much responsibility the work of the teaching professionals carry in educating more ‘patient problem solvers.’
According to Meyer, students do not find the lesson challenging enough to engage, and textbooks only provide problems (they might have worked very well for some of us, but they now seem dull and difficult to decode, despite the information being clearly displayed). Thus the eagerness for formula: to get away with the task as soon as possible. Whereas building the conversation around the math has proven to be very valuable for his lessons.
Although, I don’t have experience of delivering a lesson in schools yet, I agree with Meyer that involving the students in formulating the problem is a good way to build their confidence and a way to engage them all, with the potential outcome of, maybe, a better behaviour management. I am firmly convinced that if we encourage student’s intuition this will make them more patient problem solvers.
As a teaching assistant, I have often seen teachers struggling in class trying to force their students to do some tasks written on a piece of paper and with the formulas and other hints about problem solving hanging all around the classroom’s walls.
The math I do in school needs to be colourful, need to help me to connect to the world around me, need to be fun. I agree with Meyer that now a day information can be displayed much better using multimedia, a way that our students know too well. The use of technology is so entangled in our daily life that not trying to use it in class would be like asking them to go back of ten or twenty years. This is detrimental for teachers too, as they might be perceived as obsolete.
However, if we always used multimedia to instruct them, would our students be able to solve questions in exam format? I think so, provided they have built up a strong reasoning background.
Finally, do we need to get rid of textbooks altogether? I do not think so. They still play an important role if used as reference, to recall information.