Jump to content


Photo

The Maths Thread

For Hopeless Cases!

  • Please log in to reply
368 replies to this topic

#361 BadStrad

BadStrad

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3741 posts
  • Member: 88756
    Joined: 28-January 10

Posted 16 May 2018 - 17:25

I am kept well employed trying to undo the harm that fiddling with the maths' syllabus is doing to maths' literacy in my part of the country.  The more the syllabus setters insist that the kids must be taught using "real life examples" (more practical);  "more creative or entertaining" (teach three different subjects on three different days of the week so the kids don't get bored); "more accessible" (let's cut standard deviation out of the syllabus, they can tack that onto the A level stats syllabus instead) and so on, the more confused the kids seem to be.

 

On the old style papers, kids who weren't good with words were often able to get high marks on things like algebra because the questions weren't bogged down by the whole story of how Myfanwy and Gupta went to buy a washing machine in the sales.  Now it feels like even the algebra questions are so bogged down in reams of text that even those with high reading ability have fallen asleep before they get to the end of the question, and often they do read every word, rather than skimming to find the important bits, because they are either terrified, or just haven't been taught to skim.

 

The stats on Monday, geometry on Wednesday and algebra on Friday model of teaching that is supposed to stop kids getting bored is instead creating a bunch of kids, so far past confused that far from being entertained they are frustrated and unable to consolidate, well anything.

 

By the time they get to me, the kids are convinced that maths is a black art which they will never understand.  And then I (do my best to) open the door and let them see maths in its wonderful beauty.  I teach maths in what would be considered an old fashioned way - number systems leading to algebra and so on, linking the threads together, rather than doing fractions, then doing probability as different topics, showing them the links between them, so instead of learning a whole new subject they're just extending what they already know into a new region.  They get lots of practice questions and they lap it up!  When they understand how maths works they can apply it to real life problems, but when they don't understand the problem *or* the maths they don't learn anything except that "maths is hard."  It reminds me of when the powers that be decided technology teaching should be creatively led rather that skills led.  Instead of a kid learning to use a lathe and then designing and making something using a lathe, they were expected to design something (with bog all knowledge of materials and their properties or what techniques could be used to shape them) and then the teacher was supposed to help "facilitate" their design.  That wasn't a super frustrating situation was it? Nooooooooo! Surely it wasn't.   And breathe!

 

Sorry, that was a bit ranty, but it makes me really angry.  Maths is such a fab and interesting subject but like so many others (including music) it requires practice and rigor and good teaching to master, not a teacher trying to jump through this week's hoops to "entertain."  When they can freely teach what needs to be taught then the teacher's true enthusiasm for their subject can shine.


  • 1

#362 mel2

mel2

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4528 posts
  • Member: 6928
    Joined: 15-May 06
  • East Yorkshire

Posted 16 May 2018 - 17:35

That's sad, elemimele; I hate that kind of prejudice - there is definitely a fashionable demographic at the moment and unfortunately not much sympathy for those who do not fit within it. 

 

Fwiw, I enjoy doing maths when I CAN do it, but unfortunately that doesn't happen very often, and I've forgotten (again) how to do percentages, SI + compound interest etc.  It's not the sums that's the problem, it is the sequence of steps to work through problems; I finish a calculation and then can't remember why I did that particular step.

 

I was bad at maths at school, did only a little better at night school ( when there were such things) and put myself through a remedial maths course after my BMus to qualify for a PGCE course. managed to scrape a GCSE C grade and would probably fail it if I took it again. Does that sound like someone afraid of the subject? sleep.png I'd love to be good at it but can't wish it into being!

 

If I had the time I'd get a book on Euclidian geometry and try and work through it- now THAT sounds fascinating, but I doubt I'd get far with my track record.


  • 0

#363 chris13

chris13

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 404 posts
  • Member: 7226
    Joined: 21-June 06
  • Lancaster; originally from Rhubarb Triangle Yorkshire

Posted 16 May 2018 - 18:03

 Maths is such a fab and interesting subject but like so many others (including music) it requires practice and rigour and good teaching to master, not a teacher trying to jump through this week's hoops to "entertain."  When they can freely teach what needs to be taught then the teacher's true enthusiasm for their subject can shine.

 

agree.gif

 

Maths is the language of my own subject, Physics.


  • 0

#364 SingingPython

SingingPython

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 593 posts
  • Member: 406151
    Joined: 15-February 12

Posted 17 May 2018 - 06:17

The logical structure and rigor of Euclidean geometry is an excellent starting point for understanding mathematial proof. 

 

I absolutely agree that appreciating and enjoying the beauty of mathematics is something that requires understanding of some of the tools first.  I am blessed to have two children for whom maths is fairly straightforward, and the younger one in particular laps up you-tube videos on all sorts of mathematical topics.  The disadvantage of the latter is that all sorts of gaps can be left.  But we had a wonderful walk and talk last holidays where I started with the binomial theorem - which he didn't really know - and went through all the things that derive from or are related to it, many of which he had come across.  The joy of sharing that was every bit as good as the joy of sharing a choice bit of Bach.


  • 1

#365 Maizie

Maizie

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 6501 posts
  • Member: 9360
    Joined: 05-February 07
  • Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

Posted 17 May 2018 - 06:45

elemimele - I am sure that somebody, somewhere could use your white male privilege (;)) to get some doors open, even if the actual hands on 'to be seen by public' work doesn't appreciate your demographic at the moment


  • 0

#366 Aeolienne

Aeolienne

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1818 posts
  • Member: 16983
    Joined: 27-September 07
  • Leamington Spa, Warks

Posted 17 May 2018 - 14:56



I'm also having a crisis: I work in a not-a-mathematician-but-use-it-and-it's-fun industry (exactly the sort of people the author seems to want their pupils to emulate), and I do try to get involved in STEM activities, but I'm a middle-aged white male (quote: "But few make it beyond the scary old man bellowing at them..."). Unfortunately a lot of STEM events don't really want middle-aged white men any more, because we're not appealing role-models for young women/ethnic minorities - we embody all aspects of the bias against women and minority groups that STEM organisers are trying to combat. It's sort of sad having to stifle my enthusiasm about the subject, and keep to a back seat. Ah well. Eventually everything will come right, I suppose.

I raised an eyebrow at the line "...that mathematicians are white and male and neurotypical and heterosexual and non-disabled..." (emphasis added) What about the popular assumption that autistic people all have special talents?

 

Anyways, yesterday was National Numeracy Day. I only scored 82% on their test blush.png


  • 0

#367 mel2

mel2

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4528 posts
  • Member: 6928
    Joined: 15-May 06
  • East Yorkshire

Posted 17 May 2018 - 20:16

Who decides what is 'typical', anyway?


  • 1

#368 elemimele

elemimele

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 711 posts
  • Member: 895612
    Joined: 17-July 16

Posted 17 May 2018 - 21:25

that one zipped under my radar, but I do wish they'd kept neurotypical/autistic out of it. I think you're right that the public assumption is actually the other way round, and it potentially poses a bit of a burden on the majority of genuinely autistic people who don't have a special talent for calculating cube roots in their heads. My eyebrows were, in any case, stuck on the ceiling from the "scary old man" bit. For the record, in an all-boys school, my maths teacher was actually the only female teacher for most of my career (and had to fight a permanent personal campaign against being called "sir" by accident). Later she was joined by a 2nd female teacher, part-time, teaching computer science. We were clearly an outlier!

Meanwhile, a few months after my child started in his first infant school, I was accosted one day by a teacher as I came out of the gent's toilet, who wanted to tell me about some building maintenance issue. She assumed I was the caretaker purely because the caretaker was the only man in the school!

We live in a strange world, and I suspect it's going to take a lot longer than our generation to fight stereotypes.

 

Back on topic, one of the troubles with maths is that a lot of the interesting stuff does need some basic grounding before it makes sense. Richard Feynman is a perfect example of maths-friendliness - not a mathematician, but a highly-talented physicist whose discoveries came from playing with maths. He wrote how, as a child, he'd do things like look at the water coming out of a tap, and notice how the stream narrows as it leaves the spout - so he'd go off and calculate the shape of the curve of the water, just for fun. That sort of playing built his professional life(*) - but it's not as easy as he makes out. I don't know how you sustain people's interest through the basic stages, so they've got the tools to play without getting frustrated.

 

(* one of his more important discoveries, for which he got a Nobel prize, came from watching waitresses spin plates in his university diner, and noticing that the plate's wobble rotated at a different speed to the university logo on the plate itself. Of course he had to go and work out why, and how the two speeds of rotation are linked. Come to think of it, his autobiography contains a lot of stories in which waitresses provide mathematical inspiration; we must at least be thankful for his honesty).


  • 0

#369 Misterioso

Misterioso

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5507 posts
  • Member: 13351
    Joined: 18-July 07
  • Outer Hebrides

Posted 18 May 2018 - 12:33

Anyways, yesterday was National Numeracy Day. I only scored 82% on their test blush.png

 

I scored 63% - for a totally "non-maths" person for whom the mere mention of maths has the effect of making me throw up my hands in horror and make for the nearest exit, I was pleasantly surprised!


  • 2