I taught a Preliminary General HSC mathematics class (15-17 year olds). I teach at a Senior High School, so students come from a range of schools, with vastly different experiences, skills, backgrounds and expectations. This creates a class with a large range of different skills, interests, knowledge and expectations.
I asked my students lots of questions at the start of the year about their experiences with maths, what they thought of maths and what they wanted to get from the course. The 2 things that stood out most were
1. students expressed a high level of dislike for maths
2. all students had had poor recent experiences in maths classrooms.
Both of these resulted in a very low level of expectation, confidence and engagement.
How did I try to overcome this negativity?
1. Maths can/should be FUN.
This is not "have a laugh fun", but engaging, interesting, challenging fun! One example, was the introduction of a YouTube Friday, where I played a YouTube video every Friday (I had the last lesson) such as Mr Duey math rap video, (this caused many rolled eyes, and I even challenged my music students that if they wrote me a maths rap, I would record it) and one on Fibonacci numbers in nature
2. I create some rules of engagement which we put up on the wall (and kept referring to all year) such as
- "If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough"
- "There is no such thing as a mistake, only learning"
3. I attempted to use projects and activities (PBL) as often as possible to get students to apply the maths to their own interests and lives (this is a later post - currently in draft called "Smarties Maths") so they saw maths as more than just "doing" activities from the textbook and how it can be used in life
4. I attempted to use real world problems and examples as often as possible. Since I last taught maths the Internet has made it so much easier to do this. With the instant availability of material from the Internet that can be used to engage and show the application of maths to the "real" world.
5. I moved myself away from the front of the classroom. I did this by using a range of other methods to get the concepts across, through the use of Edmodo, videos (self created and from Khan academy), small group explanations and one-on-one feedback with EVERY student.
Did I succeed?
I hope I did. I see smiles on their faces when they come to maths. I am giving them an evaluation next week, using a google docs form so I will have some hard data next week!
What about next year?
I would love to throw away the textbook completely.