Losing Imagination in Math…

Engaging imagination in math is sometimes difficult, but engaging imagination in all subjects can be difficult sometimes too. Math, however, is one of those subjects that is seen as objective and value free and many times teacher’s teaching methods follow the procedural way of teaching because that is all they know. Although I am a history teacher, I could someday be teaching math, biology, chemistry, etc., which are all subjects I feel uncomfortable with. However, I know I would be able to teach them if I really had to because I would learn with and from my students. This week’s article by Gill and Boote discussed the need for viewing culture– classroom and math– in teaching mathematics. The study observes the classroom of Ms. Bryans who has a reputation of being a great math teacher whose teaching strategy was believed to be more problem-solving than procedural. So what does this mean for me as a teacher?

First of all, the main idea I received from the article was that culture should not be an explanation of teaching practice; rather the teaching practice should explain the culture. As a teacher, it will be crucial for me to evalute the school’s culture, not so I can necessarily conform to their standards, but so I am aware of what is happening in the school and teach effectively. Secondly, engaging imagination in every subject is important to learning because many students find school boring, but also because students’ expect a certain method for learning math. Since I am not a math teacher, I am not sure how to engage imagination in the classroom. But during my field experiences I have seen integrated assignments between Social Studies, English, and Math that were very exciting and different (ex. students needed to create a story book set in a specific historical time period that related to some teaching of math at the Grade 5 level). So it is possible, to include imagination in math despite the long-held tradition of procedural teaching.

As for students, I feel they would learn a lot more when incorporating problem based mathematics into lessons over procedural. From the little I know of math, some things may need the procedural teaching method. However, problem-based math can occur in various different ways. Last semester I had the opportunity to witness a math class that was told to go out to the school and measure things, both with a ruler and with a non-metric object like their hands. It was great to see the students so excited to learn how to calculate measurement and translate these into fractions and divisions. Maybe it is because I am not a math teacher, but I think it would be relatively easy to try this in the mathematics classroom. To relate this article to my students in History and English, I can use place-based pedagogies to be equivalent to problem-based mathematics. Really, it is about engaging the students in different forms and not being afraid to leave the classroom in order to do some real-world learning. It’s about embracing that confusion that will initially occur and using imagination to aid our students learning.

Below are some examples I found of how some teachers have included imagination into their math lessons. Math poetry and stories are included here, but imagination in math can occur through problem-based learning as well!

Concrete Poem with Math

An algebra teacher named DrewTried to find the .

He found it between

1/4 and 14,

But couldn’t get closer. Can you?

After taking two mathematics classes in college,I have but one regret…

That I didn’t apply my knowledge

Because all of the mathematics I learned I will likely forget

Posted on March 1, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. A key idea of the articles was that Mrs. B thought she was changing her teaching practice but wasn’t, so the culture of the school and classroom is very difficult to change. I think that when we learn new strategies, we have to be very conscious of making the changes and ensure that we are actually changing the culture.

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