It is a fact that most children at grade levels 3 to 5 are curious, exhibit the desire to explore and persist, seek and find solutions, and thus engage in problem solving.
Kids Build Up on Intuitive Knowledge of Maths
The above attributes cause children to possess an intuitive knowledge of math which forms the basis for conceptual understanding and development of logical-mathematical intelligence. They gain this knowledge through:
• Experience: using construction toys of varying difficulty levels, attempting jigsaw puzzles, common activities such as allocating computer time between siblings, equally dividing pies or pizzas between several people, calculating the correct change to be received from the billing counter at a market, keeping score at games and sports, making decisions and finding solutions to knotty problems.
• Inquiry: ‘How long would it take to go from Earth to Mars?’ ‘At what speed does light travel? ‘How many thousands make up a million?’ ‘Why is space black?’
• Observation: ‘All the numbers in the times tables of even numbers are even,’ ‘Like last time, 5 litres of petrol will get us there,’ ‘There are no three dollar bills,’ ‘I am 145 cm tall.’
• Making comparisons: ‘Joey is much heavier than Jim,’ ‘Am I taller by at least two inches?’ ‘The area of our house is twice that of Anna’s.’ ‘My score is a lot better than last time!’
Smart Teachers Create Learning Opportunities
Smart teachers agree that learning is a process that involves actively constructing knowledge. Knowledge can, therefore, not be doled out; it has to be created. Good teachers are aware of the math-learning opportunities that children have in their day to day lives as evidenced by the list above. They then weave learning around these opportunities that the children have been exposed to by using these to:
• create teaching-learning opportunities
• increase student engagement level by designing activities, interventions and lesson plans around these
• create scaffolds to link new learning with old
• thoughtfully plan and design strategies that will create greater opportunities for math learning in real-life scenarios
• present contexts that are relevant to children at the given age
• choose learning materials that are age-appropriate and best suited to achieve the learning objectives
Smart Teachers are Sensitive to Other Criteria Critical to Learning
Creating strategies that would capture students’ interest is not the only criteria for successful learning to happen. Some equally important factors are:
• Respecting, valuing and praising a child’s attempts at finding solutions to problems. This plays a critical role in fostering a positive attitude towards problem solving in general and mathematics in particular.
• Encouraging, praising and celebrating attempts. This is crucial to later successes and achievements in Math.
• Making all efforts to prime children to develop a love for math so that they enjoy the subject and learn to accept that problem solving is a process that sometimes involves failure before success is achieved.
• Going easy on successes and failures in order to mitigate fear of failure; something that can be debilitating to children and adults alike.
• Making mathematics a part of daily life. Encouraging kids to identify and discuss mathematics in books or games that they use and in situations both inside and outside the classroom helps in keeping them alert and receptive to math.
• Addressing doubts, offering clarifications and explanations, and setting new goals on a continual basis. This keeps children motivated to pose questions, work towards finding solutions and engage in problem solving.
As long we don’t let them fail at these, they will love math.