Far too often I hear people associating maths as numbers and languages with words and speaking. As I read into discovering maths more, I realise that this is not the case and it can have an impact on how children learn.
Liping Ma’s discovery has taught to be cautious about the words i use while teaching children maths, for example, expressing to decompose a fraction rather than borrow. this made sense to me as it provides a more visual image for the children to break down the fraction rather than steal a tens value. I then looked into other ways that maths can be used as a universal language. When children see the mathematical symbols (+,-,X,=) it is seen as an unfamiliar language that is not as straight forward as the spoken language, similarly to the way people who do not understand Chinese view their symbols.
“What seems to happen with many children is that they develop a completely separate way of thinking about the math they do at school, because it fails to integrate with their accomplished informal ‘home’ mathematical language” (Atkinson, 1998, pg 18)
This video by Randy Palisoc illustrates that maths being taught as a language is a lot more comprehend-able for children.
I like the idea of mathematics becoming more human, as i must admit, I once considered maths as the classic myth that it is solely for the ‘clever’ people.
“If the maths its self is not presented in a way that is meaningful to children, if it fails to make ‘human sense’, and if unfamiliar language is used, problems most inevitably arrive.” (Atkinson, 1998, pg 17).
I believe that teachers shouldn’t be afraid to use more language in teaching maths because it makes it more real for children while learning. By referring to the 4 principles of mathematics (Interconnectedness, basic ideas, multiple perspectives and longitudinal coherence) we can show children just how common maths is.
As a teacher it is essential to demonstrate the [inter]connectedness within every topic in maths. By taken children’s prior knowledge and displaying how it can support other mathematical problems, ill deepen their understanding and will eventually independent-learning as they begin to make links themselves. For example, knowledge about fractions and angles would be necessary to recognise how to complete trigonometry efficiently.
Through teaching Multiple perspectives within a topic provides flexibility for the children’s learning. I was definitely one of those children that needed something explained to me over and over again before i understood it. Approaching a question with an open mind to several ways of solving it, creates a less ‘scary’ ideological that there is only one correct answer in maths.
Teachers must have a profound understanding of the basic ideas within maths in order to reinforce these to the students. Basic ideas of maths can become reoccurring as children progress through mathematics, these can also be sufficient links for the children to make to develop their learning.
Longitudinal coherence is this idea of building blocks in maths. using prior knowledge we can then begin to extend their knowledge onto more complex situations. For example, once children have got to grips with multiplication and division of whole numbers, teachers can then develop their learning further by introducing fractions.
By appreciating these approaches, teachers can make teaching maths more efficient for children to master maths and avoid the false phenomenon that maths is too difficult for them.
Atkinson, S. (1998). Mathematics with reason. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Ma, L 2010, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics : Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States, Taylor and Francis, Abingdon, Oxon. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.