Task 1 – Make school maths more interesting and relevant
My overall conclusion from watching the Ken Robinson video and reading the Jo Boaler article is that they both agree that the approach to the teaching of maths needs to be updated to make it relevant to the 21st century. Whilst I agree with the fundamental arguments put forward in both articles, I do not agree with the Ken Robinson assertion that standardised testing should be stopped. I’ll summarise the key points that I agree with and then explain my reason for the supporting the continuance of standardised testing.
Ken Robinson approached this from the perspective of the historical evolution of maths teaching, the fact that the methods have not been significantly updated in recent times and that they are still based on requirements that were established during the industrial revolution. The old adage that a degree leads to a good job is no longer valid and the distraction of modern technology means that there are far more interesting things for a child to do than to learn maths by rote. The use of medication to ‘calm down’ children who react negatively to the teaching methods, due to perceived ADHD, further removes them from the learning process. He also mentions that the focus is on individual learning, one correct answer and no copying, which excludes any opportunity to collaborate. I find it hard to refute any of these observations.
Jo Boaler discusses the disparity between the student view of maths ( lots of rules and procedures ) and the expert view of maths ( patterns and a way of exploring the world ). No other subject has such a difference between the student view and the expert view. She gives a couple of examples of how children were inspired at a young age to want to explore maths beyond the typical rote learning presented in most schools, and this chimes with my own experience. She mentions how mathematical sequences such as the Fibonnaci one could be used to introduce how the wonder of maths is applicable to the natural world. She also likens mathematical notation to sheet music and, in the same way that music needs to be played and heard ( rather than just amending the notes on sheet music ), maths needs to be used to understand things in the real world. She also mentions that maths can involve working on long, inter connected and complex problems rather than solving the simple problems that students currently encounter in their school maths. Again, I find it hard to refute any of these observations.
My point of disagreement is with Ken Robinson on the value of standardised testing. Employers need an objective method of assessing prospective employees and are familiar with using the outputs from the current assessment system. I think that technology needs to be leveraged to provide new standardised assessment techniques that are integrated into the learning process and that allow students to collaborate whilst they learn. It would also be helpful to business if the types of problem being assessed had some relevance to the maths that is needed in the modern work place.