Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Changing Face of Math

Here is something that came from a fellow OCT:

A worthwhile math task in one that:
•Challenges a student
•Allows for students to collaborate, communicate and share ideas,
problems and solutions
•Involves the use of, or provides an opportunity for the use of technology and /or manipulatives to build and further a student’s understanding
•Is fun and engaging
•Takes place in a positive math environment
•Embraces errors and mistakes to further learning
•Coincides with curriculum expectations (otherwise, why are we doing it? :) )
•Is meaningful and relevant
•Connects math to the “real world”
•Relates to other math strands or other subject areas

A math task that is not worthwhile is one that:
•Does not connect to the curriculum at that grade level
•Does not challenge a student
• Does not engage a student
• Does not provide an opportunity for personal growth and learning
•Is not relevant
•Is “busy work”

An example of a math task that is not worthwhile:

You hand your grade 8 student a worksheet at the end of a lesson. You tell them it’s due tomorrow and you’ll be marking it. On the worksheet, they are required to measure the length of the sides of various polygons and find the area and perimeter each. There are many reasons why this is not a worthwhile math task. Firstly, in grade 8, this does not correlate with the expectations. In grade 8, students are way beyond simple area and perimeter. The focus in grade 8 is surface area of cylinders, circumference, radius and diameter of circles and their respective relationships. Clearly this task does not challenge them, and it’s not appropriate for their grade level (given that they are expected to achieve grade level expectations). Secondly, how can it provide an opportunity for personal growth and learning when they’ve done this in the junior grades. Thirdly, if they are required to take it home to complete, how does it engage them and provide opportunities to collaborate and communicate with their peers? Clearly, this would be a case of “busy work”. Furthermore, if they have to do it at home and hand it in to be marked, how do they learn from errors in their processing if they don’t have the opportunity to ask questions for clarification? Also, if the only access a student has to manipulatives or appropriate technology is at school, it is unfair to send a student home to complete work that may require their use.

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