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Tool For All Aspects Of Life

Tool For All Aspects Of Life
Mahendra Reddy
April 02
10:18 2017

 

 

The president of Nadi Principals Association: Setareki Merekula; the principal of Swami Vivekananda College Gyan Chand Sumer; the other members of the association and the invited principals; the Maths team from Curriculum Advisory Services; the presenters and facilitators; other invited guests; and ladies and gentlemen; good morning and warm greetings to one and all.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am indeed extremely delighted and greatly honoured to officiate at this first ever Nadi Secondary School’s Mathematics Workshop for the teachers. Let me begin by congratulating the Nadi Principal’s Association for having the vision to orchestrate this workshop for the Mathematics teachers. This is indeed an extremely stimulating and inspiring strategy and which will no doubt go a long way in supporting Mathematics Educators in Fiji.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mathematics is one of the most vital subjects in our daily lives. It does not only deal with calculations and remembering formulae and theorems.

Mathematics is all around us. It extends beyond the walls of the classroom and into normal life actions.

Maths is attached to life whether it is at work, at home or school. In the contemporary society, almost everybody uses technological gadgets and especially mobile phones and to use this, everyone needs to have simple knowledge about numbers, symbols and digits. Mathematics is also important in the kitchen. Before food is made, the ingredients must be measured in their right quantities and ratios. Mathematics plays an important role in understanding the contents of other subjects such as, Physics, Chemistry, Economics,  Geography and Accounting to name a few.

Art is another field where Maths is a vital ingredient. The artists use mathematics while making paintings, designing costumes as well as during performance. Mathematics plays a vital role in sports. Whether discussing a player’s success rate, or even the likelihood of a particular team winning a game, mathematics is involved.

Maths is used in athletics to help the athletes to achieve new distances, new speeds and new heights.

Thus we can say that without the help of mathematics we may not enjoy the true spirit of sports.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mathematics is also required to make decisions about one’s health. For example, Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to measure how overweight or obese an individual may be. Reading and interpreting nutrition fact labels on food packages also requires mathematics.

These interpretations and calculations can motivate individuals to stay consistent with their exercise in order to burn out the amount of calories one takes. The knowledge of Maths is a must while shopping. We all must know about preparation of budget, the number and amount of things to buy, the total amount to be paid, the amount saved if bought from different shops and the list goes on.

Ladies and gentlemen, therefore, Maths is part of our everyday lives. One does not need to go further but look into their own daily lives to realise the importance of Mathematics.

However, traditionally, Mathematics has been a subject which has not been popular with quite a number of students. Of course, there are many and varied reasons to all this. The added issue of Maths not doing well in National Examinations is perhaps a bigger cause for concern.

The Mathematics results in 2015 and 2016 External Examinations is certainly not encouraging.

Ladies and gentlemen, in all the External Examinations from 2015 to 2016, there has not been a single level which has attained percentage pass above 50. Meaning all Year 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 streams percentage pass in Mathematics have been below 50 per cent in the past two years; the highest percentage pass for Maths in any grade being 43 per cent, attained by Year 13 in 2015.

In addition to this, at most levels the lowest marks stand at zero, revealing the child has zero knowledge of the Maths concepts taught in the year or zero mathematics knowledge.

Citing the importance of Maths in our lives, I am now concerned on the problems these children will face in future.

Ladies and gentlemen, a much closer analysis reveals that poor Maths results is right from the lower levels; levels which are tasked to build the basics of Mathematics. Years 9 and 10 over the years have generated equally disappointing results in Maths.

 

On another note, some key areas of difficulties that are prevalent in most Secondary school students in their  Maths acquaintance are:

Multiplication table;

Addition and subtraction of more than 2 digit numbers;

Usage of formulae: they are no able to read and interpret accordingly (finding area and volume);

Conversion of measurement units such as, changing from km to cm;

Basic 4 Maths operations with fractions and decimals;

Reading large numbers and are not comfortable with the math operations;

Changing of fractions to decimals and vice versa;

Interpretation and understanding of Venn diagrams; and

Statistics: Interpretation of tables and graphs

Ladies and gentlemen, while conducting a preliminary research with the teachers from some selected schools, many HODs raised their concerns that students are not able to perform well in Mathematics. One of the reasons they give is that students do not know their basics from Primary Schools. Shifting the blame or burden helps no one. However, when the problems are put into perspective and logical thinking administered towards it, then only will refined solutions come on board. We need to change our focus.

Reflect on the past teaching pedagogies in Maths and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, there has to be a methodised injection of contemporary pedagogies to teaching and learning of Maths.

I, as such find the theme of this workshop: Reinventing Pedagogies for Improved Outcome in Mathematics, highly fitting to the teaching and learning of Mathematics to the current blend of students; re-inventing pedagogies through research, partnerships, collaborative trainings and its orchestration.

Ladies and gentlemen, last month, during the Education Conference, I reminded all that teaching and learning in this era has to change and move away from age old practices. The methodologies and strategies in education have to be aligned to the demands of students of this era. Injection of technology, usage of varied teaching strategies, new resources, upgraded curriculum and apt teachers are just some.

Zeroing on subject matter delivery is extremely vital now and it is no surprise that delivery of content has to be strategised and put in line with the needs of the current mix of students. Meaning, we cannot be rooted to same practices of teaching Maths in the current time. Maths is an activity based subject and it cannot be dished out to students through talk and chalk only. The more they do, the more they learn.

Ladies and gentlemen, re-inventing teaching pedagogies need genuine initiation and the dedication to move away from past trends. The intellect and training paradigm of this is certainly attained through the teachers’ professional training, but it is the situational response to the mathematics needs of individual students that builds the new day teaching pedagogies. We need more dynamic components of teaching Maths to our children. Once the processes or ideas of teaching becomes polished and re-furbished, the outcome will be children who understand the workings of Mathematics and which they can use to get better results and lifelong usage.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I intend to take this opportunity to briefly talk about a few modern day teaching  pedagogies which are set to increase improved outcome.

  1. Build a ‘mathematics culture’ in the classroom: Teachers need to ensure that their classrooms have a strong mathematics focus. The climate inside the classroom must be created to consistently challenge students to learn Maths;
  2. Make Maths available to students: Constantly challenge students with new and fresh tasks and rotate tasks regularly. Regular worksheets and activities generate greater interest from students. Ensure that Maths equipment is available such as, stationery, working sheets and other resources;
  3. Effective Maths teachers provide students with opportunities to work both independently and collaboratively to make sense of ideas. Varied working strategies keep the ‘boring’ factor at bay. Give the children the freedom to discuss in whole class and in partners or groups and where necessary work on their own. Any standardised procedural discussion technique used over and over makes things stagnant and students quickly lose interest;
  4. Effective Maths teachers plan mathematics learning experiences that enable students to build on their pre-existing proficiencies, interests, and knowledge. Teachers can use examples from children to make students understand the concepts taught. For example, the concept of division or fraction can easily be related to the concept of sharing a cake at home. This pedagogy also relates to ensuring that selected students such as, low achievers existing knowledge is used to build the base of their learning rather than letting a big gap operate in their existing knowledge of maths and the new concepts being taught. For example, simplifying a question into different parts for the low achievers;
  5. Effective Maths teachers use a range of assessment practices to make students’ thinking visible and to support students’ learning. This is perhaps an extremely important factor affecting teaching and learning in this era. Teachers must use a wide range of formal and informal assessments to monitor and diagnose learning issues. The assessments must probe the understanding level of students and give the teacher the important feedback on the ability of the child.

Strategies such as teacher questioning, giving effective feedback, peer assessment and self-assessment are highly relevant in class;

  1. Effective Maths teachers are patient with students. They understand that student’s needs are different and as such they are ready to go out of their way to help the child. Extra attention to low achiever. Teachers need to be dedicated to uplift the knowledge base of the child and not lower their self-esteem by signalling them out; and
  2. Effective teachers take over board vital stakeholders of teaching and learning Maths. One of them is the parents.

Reach out to the parents and see how they can contribute to their child learning Maths. Give out activities such as learning multiplication table for parents to monitor and no doubt positive results will be attained.

Ladies and gentlemen, any major innovation and genuine reform require aligning the efforts of all those involved in students’ mathematical development: teachers, Principals, teacher educators, researchers, parents, expert support services, school boards, policy makers, and the students themselves. It is vital, therefore, that we understand what effective mathematics teaching looks like—and what teachers can do to break this pattern. Hence, I am glad that you have taken over this initiative and especially something which is going to support our children’s learning. Thank you. Vinaka vaka levu and danyavaad

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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