Over the next few days, this blog will feature posts on teaching and learning mathematics. If you have been a long-time reader of this blog (ie. hello mama, papa, and self!), you will know that my inclination has always been towards language and literacy. You will also know that I am new to preschool teaching, and math is a subject never-before-mentioned on my blog save for this picture. This is also the first time blog entries account for grading!
A tired refrain from my days in secondary school math class was ‘Will I ever need to do this in real life?’ In my case, almost never (logarithms, anyone?). I admit, the lack of application put me off some branches of mathematics then. Thankfully I can still do the kind of math that count- you know, calculating the bill at the end of a meal, adding in service and government taxes, making sure everyone pays their share and not a cent less (or more). I can also convert SGD to IDR pretty quickly.
My biggest takeaway from reading chapters 1 & 2 of Elementary and Middle-School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally (8th Ed.) is that I have much to learn! It reads like a to-do list-
- I need to grow my knowledge of mathematics to become a teacher of mathematics
- I need to understand how children learn mathematics
Two guiding theories here: constructivism (Piaget) and social-cultural theory (Vygotsky). I already know from experience that meaningful, real-life application is important in helping children make sense of their learning. Knowledge about how children learn mathematics provide us with suggestions for teaching mathematics. This include building from children’s prior knowledge, building in opportunities for reflective thought, engaging children in productive struggle*, and treating errors as opportunities for learning. And let it never be said that I never invoke the names of theorists :p
- These will guide me in selecting tasks and activities for children
A-HA! This is what it all boils down to, ladies and gents. Selecting meaningful activities that will enhance each child’s learning. In other words, I shouldn’t be fielding questions such as ‘Will I ever need to do this in real life, Ms. Harlina?’ from my class of three year olds, EVARRRRRR.
Incidentally, these points make up the teaching principle, one of six principles fundamental to high-quality mathematics education. The other five are equity, curriculum, learning, assessment and technology. I expect Dr. Yeap will employ all six principles in the classroom. See, he already got the technology bit covered by maintaining his own blog and setting us this task!
It was a wise old owl (high on diet Pepsi, Satay-flavoured broad beans, and international travel) who first told us ‘We teach how we were taught’. I am so glad I have a second chance at learning mathematics!
*as opposed to unproductive struggle, which happens from time to time in preschool settings, sometimes resulting in tantrums, usually thrown by children and rarely by teachers. There is a venn diagram in there somewhere just begging to be drawn!