Math Education Concepts

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Reinvention as a Method for Teaching Math

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As math education evolves, the teaching methods change to suit the needs of today’s learners.  This happens as a result of the research of mathematicians and math educators (sometimes, one in the same) for more effective ways to teach mathematics.

Today’s students are so “right now” that many of them are not really interested in the whys of mathematics.  They want the bottom line so they can complete homework assignments or pass tests.  Most of my students are not interested in how a formula was derived.  They want the formula and they want to know how to apply it.  There are rare cases when a student questions a concept and wants to know why it works.  In this situation, I take the time to explain the concept and prompt the student to figure it out on their own.  Once this is done, the student can relate to the concept and apply it easily, because it now makes sense.   

Today, we are all so concerned with following and keeping up with standards, scoring high on standardized tests, and getting students into the next grade by any means necessary, that we do not take the time to implement more meaningful methods of math education into our curricula.

In an ideal education system, secondary students would be separated based on their interest in specific fields (language, science, math, history, etc.).  Within that field, the teacher would have the autonomy to structure their courses to strengthen their students’ understanding.  In mathematics, this would make room for reinvention based problems that would bring math to life for the students.  As a mathematician, I wish everyone could understand mathematics on a higher level.  Unfortunately, most students are not interested and some educators are neither equipped nor concerned enough to make such changes in their classrooms, even when the opportunity is present.   

As a math educator, I think the concept of reinventing math is brilliant.  I believe it would have strengthened my understanding of so many mathematical concepts when I was a student.  I believe that math educators should learn math in this manner so that they can be more effective educators.  The more we understand a concept (and reinvention can help) the more effective we can teach that concept.

What do you think about reinvention as a method for teaching math?

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Author: Math Education Concepts

I am a Co-founder of and Program Coordinator for Math Corps Philadelphia, a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program. I am the author of "Teacher Training Manual: Designed for Secondary Mathematics Teachers of African American Urban Students." I hold a Master of Education degree in Secondary Mathematics and have several years of experience teaching secondary and post-secondary mathematics.

4 thoughts on “Reinvention as a Method for Teaching Math

  1. And we have to stop preaching a difference between math and english; art and science. We do that and you would see the kick off of great teaching and learning inventions period. Math is a Language. A beautiful language. Every time I hit these keys an equation speaks. And every plate was a work of science before we painted the edges and the wheel was a dream graphic in somebody’s mind kickin’ it, star gazing.

    But, forget the etereal argument for noting the familial relationship between all schematics, designs, poetry and 01. All we need consider is the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this day and age where innovation is almost the only cha-ching, hey, learning and teaching have to practice for who they reach. I am a filmmaker with a foundation in screenwriting. I better love math if I want my art to reach an audience. Mute point.

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    • Excellent point! Math is a part of everything we do, big or small!!! And yes, it is its own language. Yesterday I ran into one of my students on campus and he said he was amazed to realize that math is a language. Once he made that realization he was able to grasp the concepts (of precalculus) easily. That made my day!!!

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  2. This was definitely my favorite way to learn, however none of my actual math teachers used this method. Learning Physics and seeing all the mathematical tools become useful in many more situations (such as deriving equations of motion) gave me a much deeper understanding of math than my math lessons ever did!

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