Friday, January 21, 2011

Reading Math

One of the most significant challenges teachers face today is tackling their students’ poor reading skills…in math! Too often, students are merely required to do an endless number of “practice problems” that require nothing more than a rote process in order to arrive at an answer. These types of problems have their place, in moderation, but doesn’t it make more sense to challenge our students—regardless of their aptitude and ability—with age-/level-appropriate application (i.e., “word”) problems? Sure these are “harder” to do, and most students do not “like” doing them; especially in our current “eye candy” society that emphasizes instant gratification. If a solution is not easily attained, teachers are afraid that they will lose their students' interest and involvement. However, just the opposite can happen! If well prepared, a teacher can capture his/her student audience by making the concept of the day based upon real world scenarios. When covering a non-basic topic, how many times have we as math teachers heard our students complain, “…when will we ever need to know this?”  Doing more application-based problems, while reinforcing reading skills, not only addresses this common complaint, but it creates a more active learning environment. It’s OK for student not to “get it” right away…it’s OK to struggle with how to go about setting up a word problem!

Students are more apt to retain mathematical concepts over the long-term if they are asked to apply them to application problems rather than simply solve generic equations.

The end result of utilizing more application problems during math classes is two-fold. First, it presents students with real life situations where math is invaluable, and secondly, students are more excited about “getting the answer” when they have to put in some real thought!


Id it is said...

"making the concept of the day based upon real world scenarios" ...that ought to be the mantra for any educator who wants to facilitate learning in any area of academics.

rickh823 said...

I absolutely agree. Makes learning more realistic and interesting; otherwise it is simply rote work....

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