Friday Two Cents: I Enjoy Mathematics


 

This past week was the first week of my summer vacation, yet instead of going away somewhere or doing some work around the house I decided to improve my teaching knowledge. I decided to take an additional qualification course (AQ) in mathematics for the primary and junior grades. Many people asked my why I would take such a course because I am more of creative person who enjoys art. Other said “YUCH!! I hate math.” or “I was never good at math.” Many people had a negative experience with math in school.

Yet truth be-told, I have always enjoyed math since an early age and it seems to come natural to me. Yet I have discovered that knowing how to do math and teaching it is a lot different. I wanted to increase my knowledge in the subject matter to better help the students understand math and perhaps enjoy it as I have.

What are numbers?

The course has been very eye-opening yet there was one notion that made me pause in refection. As part of the course I read a chapter from a book entitled, ‘Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics’. In it you are made to try to understand what are numbers. The professor then posed a question… ‘What statement best captures your understanding of “number”?’ – Number are ideas, nouns, adjectives or something else?
When I was first asked the question my first thought was that numbers were quantitative / measurable units. Yet after the first lecture and reading the chapter I am starting to see that numbers are a lot more that I gave them credit.
Numbers are what we make them to be. They can be apples, cars, money, people or even time. Without the context of what the number is, it is just a digit, a visual image representing something but we are not sure what. When you say 5 what is five? Not until you say five cars does the number have value. I never thought of this concept but it makes sense.
Numbers are ideas, nouns and adjectives. They are all of these and more. It puts into perspective the idea of giving the students equations. The concept of 1+2=3 is good if you are doing high-end mathematics, yet we are talking about students in the primary and junior grades, children from ages 3 – 12 years.
This reminds me of when I took calculus in high school and university. It is all about numbers being part of an equation that needed to be solved. Yet I remember using many similar equations in physics when doing formulas. We knew that each variable represented something (f = force) and we would plug-in numbers to calculate the values. Even back then there was value to the numbers like mass (m) or speed (m/s) yet I never though of that when I would be teaching math.
This has definitely changed my thinking around how I present and instruct math. But it has also helped me to know what I can say to parents about, what people are calling the new way of teaching math. I can help them understand that numbers are ideas, nouns and adjectives. That the numbers are only part of the lesson, that we are helping the students to connect the number to their own life and thereby allow them to carry on this knowledge into their every day life.
This has only been a beginning of my journey to understand and help others understand math. There is a lot more to learn and with time, practice and perseverance I know I can improve my knowledge of how to teach math to the students. Perhaps even change society’s negative preconception on math.
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