Task 10: Engaging Students In Maths

Posted by Raj on May 16, 2016

Engaging Students in Mathematics



Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley:



The Oxford dictionary defines engagement as occupying or attracting (someone’s interest or attention). How important is engagement and does it go hand-in-hand with Learning ? If a teacher just produces good study material for students to view on a whiteboard is that enough for a successful lesson, learning and understanding?

As the article in ‘Edutopia’ suggests,’ Having a positive environment for kids where they feel like they can actually do maths without feeling like they’re complete failures matters a lot.’ And it goes on to talk about 5 ways that teachers can create an environment most suitable for engaging students:

  • Allowing students to make mistakes
  • Supporting them when they struggle
  • Letting the kids teach too by letting them speak
  • Answering questions with more questions and letting them find the answer
  • Personalising questions, inserting their names in a question, even a hypothetical one can engage them

In Ken Robinson’s TED talk how to escape education’s death valley,’ he talks about the natural difference between siblings corresponding to diverse requirements of their education. Education policies, generally, look to teach in a narrow, not diverse syllabus. ‘Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various Secondly, curiosity drives learning in children and can drive their own learning as opposed to compliance and standardisation. The whole point of education is to get students to learn. If the conditions are right, students will flourish.

In my experience as a T.A. in an ‘outstanding’ school, engagement is important not only in the learning process, but behaviour and for a stress free classroom for teachers and other students. Occasionally, students turn up to classes and do not engage because they are tired or have outside stressful situations and may be quiet during the lesson. Another type of disengaged student may disrupt the lesson by talking or acting in other inappropriate ways that will distract students who are trying to learn. Clearly, this is an undesirable situation for teachers and students alike.

As Boaler describes, “disinterest in mathematics generated by certain pedagogical approaches seems strongly linked with underachievement”. Also, Engagement in lessons is essential, as when an individual disengages with a task, “the individual’s sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory process will not be activated”, limiting the opportunity for learning (Anderman, Noar, Zimmerman, & Donohew).

In conclusion: I would say that that engagement by students is of paramount importance. There are many discussions educators need to have about the most interesting way to teach a certain topic, the environment students are taught in, etc., but all of that fades into insignificance if students are not engaged. I find this topic fascinating as I have seen teachers who are clearly excellent mathematicians and demonstrate this in between lessons when talking to colleagues; yet are no better than other teachers in their effectiveness in teaching a lesson. However, the the level of engagement of students appears to correlate to the success of a lesson.

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