A few weeks ago I attended a lecture by Johnathan Lewin, regarding the use of technology when teaching and it was brilliant, and I’m not even talking about his use of technology. The passion that Johnathan speaks with and the passion he has for Mathematics is explosive and practically contagious.
He uses a number of different programmes and applications to assist him in the classroom. He even records his lectures (he captures the audio and a visual of the learning materials and then makes them available to his students). He is in favour of designing the materials in front of the learners in order for them to see how the Mathematics is created rather than to arrive with some neatly prepared sides and show them what Mathematics looks like. He wants them to engage in it at all levels and not just see the perfect final product, if you wish.
I would however like to spend a little time reflecting on my favourite quote from Johnathan’s talk. He said: “The only people that think Mathematics isn’t scary are those people that don’t do any [Mathematics].” This is so true and something that I have been trying to get my learners to understand for the longest time. You don’t need to be afraid of Mathematics, but you do need to practice so that you get better at it and it becomes a little less scary. Learners somehow seem to think that teachers give them homework as a sort of punishment or that we want to have something to mark on our weekends, when in fact, we are giving them the work so that they can consolidate their learning through practice. I was maybe a little radical in my thinking with regards to homework giving because I know that things have changed drastically since I was at school. I usually aimed to give my learners about 30 minutes worth of homework. This was often between 5 and 10 questions depending on the chapter we were busy with. (I encouraged them to spend more than that, but I know it wasn’t always practical or even possible.) My thinking is this: For the average child, it will take him 30 minutes to complete and then he still has at least 5 other subjects that has homework needing completion. The slightly weaker learner is going to take 30 minutes to an hour, but it is still manageable in addition to their other homework. Plus, if he only gets one out of 5 right it’s still not completely soul destroying, like the sometimes 1 or 2 out of 30 that I was exposed to back at school. And then for the learner who is a little more advanced, it’s going to take him 15 to 20 minutes, but you know that they are still going to do extra because they are dedicated, enjoy it and want to push themselves.
Yes, like I said, learners need to practice to consolidate their knowledge, but we need not give them 30 -50 questions to do, like back in my day. To me, it is the types of questions you give in your selection that is far more important. If of the 50 questions you give, you give only 5 types of questions (i.e. there are 10 questions of the same type) and can do 1, I am almost sure to be able to do the other 9 of the same type. Why not rather just give them 5 varied questions and then the learner will still be able to know where their knowledge is lacking and they can go and practice more of that particular kind on their own (or with your guidance).
Nowadays, learners have so many other stresses and responsibilities they need to deal with that the last thing they need is to be completely overwhelmed by their schoolwork too. I’m by no means saying that they shouldn’t work hard and be dedicated, but they should still have time to play outside and have time to find themselves. They are, after all, still children.
May you find your inner child today.