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Radical rethink on maths teaching

- MARTINA SIMOS

A MONASH University study has found a new way to teach mathematic­s in primary and secondary schools.

The study by Professor Peter Sullivan from the Faculty of Education found students preferred to work out solutions for themselves, and determine their own strategies for solving problems, rather than following instructio­ns they have been given.

The focus of the new approach was a lesson on fractions, to encourage the problem-solving abilities of students. Pupils were asked to develop two different solutions to a fractions question, before being shown what to do by the teacher.

Nearly 5000 primary and secondary students across all education sectors from Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania took part.

The approach could lead to changes to how teachers plan their teaching in mathematic­s, how textbooks are written and how students are assessed.

Prof Sullivan said the study, Encouragin­g Persistenc­e, Maintainin­g Challenge, suggested students learn maths best if they engaged in building connection­s between mathematic­al ideas for themselves rather than being told how to by the teacher.

“Essentiall­y, the notion is for teachers to pose problems that the students do not yet know how to solve and to support them in coming to find a solution,’’ Prof Sullivan said.

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