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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Maths needs a makeover

Dan Meyer is a young Maths teacher from the U.S. He recently presented at the TEDx New York. It is a refreshing look at the teaching of mathematics.

Dan Meyer raises a number of points that are worth considering.

He identifies 5 symptoms that you are doing maths wrong in the classroom. Part of the issue, he argues, is that students expect simple problems that can be resolved simply. He argues that the way text books present mathematical computation and patient problem-solving reinforces this. It conditions students to solve problems in a particular way - simply decoding, and applying given information within a very short time frame.

I like his notion that the maths serves the conversation, not the conversation serving the maths. Real problems either have too much information or not enough information. Students need to be engaged in deep thinking and in the formulation of the problem as well as the solving of the problem.

He proposes 5 actions for maths teachers:
  1. Use multimedia
  2. Encourage student intuition
  3. Ask the shortest questions you can
  4. Let students build the problem
  5. Be less helpful.
"Maths makes sense of the world. Maths is the vocabulary of your own intuition."
"We need more patient problem-solvers!"
The ideas presented in the video are timely given the development of a National Curriculum for Mathematics in Australia.

Here is Dan's TEDx talk:

Dan's blog is also worth checking out:
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