And Three Things Schools Can Do to Fix It
— Houston, TX
Mathematics is infamous for causing students trouble. Many students struggle to find interest in math, or even to understand it. So why do students struggle so much, and how can schools increase the love for learning math?
Real World Application
One reason students don’t feel interested in math is because they don’t see the real world application. Teachers are often barraged with questions like, “When will I use this in the real world?” or claiming they only need basic mathematics for their prospective career, like accounting and working as a cashier. However, this is far from the truth. For example, architecture, weather forecasts, and even GPS all require advanced mathematics. Even videogames- something many students view as the complete opposite of math class- are heavily reliant on mathematics. For example, the game Angry Birds uses parabolas to shoot birds across the screen.
Schools can fight against this
misconception that math doesn’t apply to real-life situations by describing real scenarios, technology, or careers that use each technique covered in class. For example, a teacher explaining recursive series could talk about the Fibonacci sequence, and how it applies to real structures in nature.
Students may also dislike math because they have to memorize steps and formulas that feel random. Rather than understanding what the steps and equations mean, students often try to rote-memorize what to do. For example, a formula that many students are required to memorize is the midpoint formula. Rather than thinking of it as the average of the x-values and the average of the y-values to get the average of two points, some students repeat this formula until they know how to write it, without thinking about why or what it means.
Teachers can prevent rote-memorization by explaining the purpose, steps, formulas, and what they mean. In this way, students can understand why formulas work and how they were derived, making math much less tedious. This greater understanding will help students remember what to do because they will think about purpose rather than memorization.
Competitive Environments and Testing
Lastly, many students feel discouraged from learning math because of the highly competitive environment in class. Because so much emphasis is put on high grades, many students focus more on cramming for a test than actually learning the material. Thus, even some of the most successful students still feel as if they don’t understand math.
On the other hand, some students feel that they understand the material but then are met with low test scores and are discouraged to apply themselves again. Whether it be from careless mistakes or the test material being more difficult than classwork, students feel that their scores don’t reflect their effort in class and, therefore, become frustrated with math in general.
Schools can improve their class environment and students’ understanding of the material by incorporating a more cooperative style. Students who feel frustrated with their test grades might be given opportunities for extra credit or a retest to show their knowledge of the material. Teachers could put more emphasis on understanding the material, rather than testing, by offering extra credit and giving opportunities for students to work together to improve their understanding of a topic.
Overall, there are various reasons a student may not feel drawn to math. However, there are many ways that schools can encourage students to pursue understanding in math class, leading to potential careers in mathematics.