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Girl in front of blacboard with math formulae

How MAC students are learning to embrace mathematics

The effective treatment of mathemaphobia

There has never been a moment in my career at MacLachlan when I haven’t been impressed with the passion and dedication of our teachers. The last 10 months have only increased my gratitude for the wonder they inspire and skill they instil in our students.

It is a reality that teaching mathematics is among the more challenging endeavours in education. Math teachers must help students overcome the very real issue of mathemaphobia otherwise known as mathematics anxiety – feelings of fear, avoidance and dread when dealing with any situation relating to mathematics.

Effective teachers of mathematics, such as our Mr. Michael Griffin, create purposeful learning experiences for students through solving problems in relevant and meaningful contexts where students are given opportunities to tackle problems head on and learn how to work with and manipulate data to address them.

“Giving direction is not the same thing as giving directions. Directions are instructions how. Direction is the reason why.” - Simon Sinek

When asked, Mr., Griffin (Mike) shares how he brings Project Based Learning (PBL) and 21st Century skills to teaching mathematics to our Grade 11 and 12 students.

“Part of the challenge in teaching mathematics is overcoming the inclination people have about never really being required to use the skills in ‘real life’,” Mike commented. “So one of the solutions to get beyond quizzes and tests and into conversation and observation is to make the applicability of the study relevant.

“For example, my Grade 11 class were recently working on a financial math assignment where they were challenged to address annuities in the context of a car or house payment. They researched homes on MLS and studied the various mortgage interest rates available from a wide spectrum of institutions. They then had to figure out their amortization options and determine what options would be optimal.

“At some point in life we all have to incur debt, for example student loans, and understanding the realities of how to manage it requires some degree of mathematical understanding and application.”

Abstract symbols or a map to creative expression?

Bringing mathematical concepts to life through functions provides opportunity for transformation. The photo shown here, while to most of us would appear bewildering, is actually a formula for mapping the cross members of the Eiffel Tower and was created by one of Mike’s students as part of their presentation to the class.

“This student chose to show how transformation from formula applied to one of the worlds’ great architectural monuments,” said Mike. “They were able to move from theory to real world application by using one of the new tools we introduced recently, Desmos, an online graphing calculator.

“And that’s just one of the tech innovations we’re introducing. During remote learning in fact, while most students use a MacBook, they learned through personal exchange and trial, that tablets were actually even more useful for math studies. Through their learning they are in some ways leading us and that’s certainly part of our ability to re-imagine possibilities.

“As well, we’re moving to an even more collaborative approach in our semester approach where we can spend an entire half day on one subject,” he continued. “This permits even greater exploration and exchange of thought.”

Mike’s story is just one of the many innovative approaches our teachers bring to the classroom – whether in person or remotely. It is they who enable us to create future-ready people who can effectively move forward in today’s complex world.

That’s one of the simplest mathematical equations:

talent + passion = ability.

Author: MacLachlan College

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