Why does math pose such a challenge to students? Most people say that being good at math is like a talent, you’re either born with it or you aren´t. Countless times I have heard parents say “When I was a kid, Math was my weakness. My child must have gotten it from me”. When the truth is that math isn’t a matter of talent, but a matter of understanding. Most of the time kids start disliking math not because of how hard it is, but because math makes no sense to them. They simply can’t make connections between math and real life applications, so they find it useless. They see math as something they will never use in their lifetime, without knowing that everything that surrounds them is thanks to math, from the visual effects in the latest Marvel movie to the weather forecast they checked this morning. They have no idea that math opens doors to inventions and technology, and that without it they wouldn’t have the lifestyles that they do.
That is why it is of the utmost importance to teach math with meaning. Students need to see how math can be tied to their everyday lives and here is where constructivism plays its biggest role. Designing activities, problems and lessons where students can discover math through a deeper understanding of their world. This week ninth graders worked on making box and whisker plots from data they gathered around school. They designed their own research questions and plotted the data they collected. Students went around asking heights, weights, ages of parents, and even number of sweethearts people had had throughout their lifetimes. The previous week we had learned how to construct box and whisker plots but students just saw it as numbers they had to order and plot. Nothing out of the ordinary but once they came back they were excited to have found out the height of their classmates, teachers and other people they see around school. When they plotted the graphs everything made a lot more sense to them. The graphs stopped being just graphs and they finally told a story.
Math opens a new way of viewing the world, of understanding its beauty. If students are given the chance in school to see their surrounding through math they will start a journey full of questioning and awe-inspiring moments of discovery. That is what my goal as a math teacher is, to show students a new way to interpret their world so that they can start seeing math as a key to achieve their dreams instead of a barrier. Using constructivist methods throughout my teaching I am sure it will be accomplished.
Miss Alejandra López