Math­e­mat­ics Learn­ing: A Jour­ney not a Race

Sun.Star Pampanga - - PERSPECTIVE! -

In teach­ing math­e­mat­ics there are many teach­ers fac­ing a chal­lenge on how they make the sub­ject easy to un­der­stand but still many of the stu­dents have hard time to have a deep un­der­stand­ing on the dif­fer­ent con­cepts. There were stu­dents who want to skip the math sub­ject be­cause of that rea­son. How­ever, Should we sup­port ac­cel­er­a­tion? This ques­tion, like many ques­tions in math­e­mat­ics ed­u­ca­tion, does not have a bi­nary an­swer. The an­swer is “it de­pends.” Some­times ac­cel­er­a­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate and some­times it isn’t. What does the an­swer de­pend on? Here the an­swer is clearer: it de­pends on the stu­dent’s demon­strated sig­nif­i­cant depth of un­der­stand­ing of all the con­tent that would skipped. If a stu­dent demon­strates sig­nif­i­cant depth of un­der­stand­ing of some but not all the con­tent that would be skipped, then this is more ap­pro­pri­ately an op­por­tu­nity for en­rich­ment rather than ac­cel­er­a­tion. In this sit­u­a­tion there are some in­sti­tu­tion ar­gues that “when con­sid­er­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for ac­cel­er­a­tion in math­e­mat­ics, care must be taken to en­sure that op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able to each and ev­ery pre­pared stu­dent and that no crit­i­cal con­cepts are rushed or skipped, that stu­dents have mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­ves­ti­gate top­ics of in­ter­est in depth and that stu­dents con­tinue to take math­e­mat­ics cour­ses while still in high school and be­yond.”

At the ele­men­tary level, and even in the sec­ondary school, Speed com­plet­ing com­pu­ta­tional tasks or car­ry­ing out of rou­tine sym­bolic ma­nip­u­la­tions can­not be the ba­sis of ac­cel­er­a­tion. Too many par­ents, and oth­ers for that mat­ter, still have a nar­row def­i­ni­tion of math­e­mat­ics as com­pu­ta­tion and sym­bolic ma­nip­u­la­tion.

We must em­pha­size to par­ents, teach­ers, coun­selors, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and stu­dents that the goals of learn­ing math­e­mat­ics are mul­ti­di­men­sional and bal­anced: stu­dents must de­velop a deep con­cep­tual un­der­stand­ing (why), cou­pled with pro­ce­dural flu­ency (how), but in ad­di­tion they also need the abil­ity to rea­son and ap­ply math­e­mat­ics (when), and all while de­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive math­e­mat­ics iden­tity and high sense of agency. All four goals are crit­i­cal com­po­nents of what it means to be math­e­mat­i­cally lit­er­ate in the 21st cen­tury.

There is ev­i­dence that stu­dents who speed through con­tent without de­vel­op­ing depth of un­der­stand­ing are the very ones who tend to drop of math­e­mat­ics when they have the chance (Boaler 2016). Ac­cel­er­a­tion po­ten­tially de­creases stu­dent ac­cess to STEM ca­reers if it re­sults in stu­dents drop­ping math­e­mat­ics as quickly as pos­si­ble, rather than cul­ti­vat­ing and de­vel­op­ing the joy of do­ing and un­der­stand­ing math­e­mat­ics. This is im­por­tant to point out to par­ents, as drop­ping out of math­e­mat­ics is clearly not an out­come par­ents want to en­cour­age.

Math­e­mat­ics should be taught deeply and in a bal­anced way, with the equal at­ten­tion paid to pro­ce­dural flu­ency, con­cep­tual un­der­stand­ing, rea­son­ing and prob­lem solv­ing and the de­vel­op­ment of a pos­i­tive math­e­mat­ics iden­tity. When these goal are achieved, stu­dents will ben­e­fit from math­e­mat­ics learn­ing that will serve them for their en­tire life.

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