One of the hardest part of teaching I find is providing a purpose to all the maths a student learns, while they're at school. However, I do find it a necessary part of their learning, as once they have a reason to learn it, they engage more.
A lot of students consider maths all about numbers and don't see the benefit it has to offer.
I do believe that for many students, the problem was they were faced with unnecessary number crunching mixed with the fact that the maths was simply too hard.
I find that by emerging the students within the problem, they start to see a greater purpose to learn it, as the maths starts to make sense. They also see themselves as part of a problem and where they fit into it.
This year I am trialling a new method with my statistics topic. I've decided to collect the data, based on students carrying out specific activities. I have used the text for occasional reference, but not as a focus for their core work.
The benefits are enormous as:
The students see where the data comes from.
Engage in math activities.
Work in groups.
Use movement during maths.
Cross the curriculum by emerging in sporting activities.
The students have indicated to me a real connection to the statistics they've been doing, and have said it is really good.
Some of the statistical activities I have had them do are:
1. I had the students record how far they could each throw a tennis ball and cricket ball. They also threw a basketball from a specific distance to the goal, and the number of times they got a goal was recorded.
From this I was able to get the students to gather three sets of data, from which we sectioned it into five sets, these being girl's and boy's tennis throw, cricket throw and whole class basketball goals.
I worked through the whole class basketball goals first as an example, and soon they were able to do their own work with the remaining sets of data. Students not only built a basic understanding of the concepts, they also engaged in the activity really well. Even to the extent where they helped me set the activities up and help retrieve the balls after they were thrown.
2. Another activity that I've had the same group of students do was to complete two surveys. They even wanted to survey another class. One survey was about how many people in their family, the other one was about how many sports do they play.
All students appeared to engage with this activity, and as a result they were then able to work out the maths from their data.
Within two lessons the students are able to find from a set of data the following:
mean, median, mode, range, outlier.
They are also able to construct the following:
frequency tables that included cumulative frequency and percentage cumulative frequency.
All of this may sound like math jargon. However, to these students it means something, and this is why I listed it. Hopefully as a reader you understand the impact of such an activity.
I am currently working on frequency tables that groups together data into specific interval ranges. As we just had our cross country. I intend on using the finishing times from their age groups.
I am finding that the more the students are emerged within a problem, the better they understand it, as apposed to them completing like questions from text core work, where they find it hard to connect to the data they're looking at. Simply because the data has no relevance to their lives.