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Modern Education: Should We Reshape the Ways We Learn Math?

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Introduction:

Mathematics is the most beautiful and creative topic that one can learn. Mathematics is used to create gorgeous buildings, can be found within spectacular works of art, and drives all of the beauty within nature. I, however, am willing to wager that you would disagree. This is because when I say Math, the immediate image in your mind is a long worksheet of unnecessary formulas, hours of work that feels more drudgery than beautiful, and test scores you fear to show your parents. Why are we taking the most glorious area of learning, one that drives the world around us, and making people hate it. We force children to see creativity as a means to a bad grade, instead reinforcing the notion that blind memorization and impractical applications are how you succeed. Schools need to change this grotesque act if we are to create a generation of creative students who are excited about learning. 

What you need to know:

I am not the first to wonder whether the Mathematics issue stems from a dislike of Math itself, or simply the ways we teach the subject. AmyLee Kinder, a Math Specialist at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy sought to answer the same question. Kinder ran her own mathematics class where she tried to get students to think more critically about the material. Kinder asks questions like, “Why do you think that?” and, “Where does that come from?” in order to build a deeper understading of the material. Not only did Kinder’s class perform better, they were much happier throughout the course. Mark Kriston adopts a similar teaching approach at his two Mathnasium learning centers. He not only teaches the material , but attemots to relate it back to previous concepts students have learned. Kriston says, “If they were to understand that connection, they would feel more comfortable going forward.”

The dangers that come with the way we teach math are not just limited to a lack of creativity, but a drop in mental health. Stress levels are an astronomical amount in teens, and 34% of teens only expect their stress levels to increase in the following year.

Teen stress rivals that of adults

Game Theory:

The Model

Strategies for Administrators

  1. Reshape Mathematical Education by designing new methods of learning and assessment. The most ideal method of doing this would be to create a classroom environment where students work to find solutions to difficult questions, while the teacher only guides them in the right direction if they need. This would require not only massive work for the Administrators, but an overhaul of the grade based culture we have today. 
  2. Leave Mathematical Education as is. This option requires far less work for the Administrators. Not only do they not have to redesign their teaching styles, but the work necessary to teach their students stays the same. This also means the culture, (ie GPA scale, the College Process, etc.), can remain as efficient at assessing mass amounts of students on a standardized scale.

Strategies for Students

  1. Attempt to do their best in school and learn as much as possible. This would involve students taking responsibility for their own learning, trying not just to get a good grade, but to truly understand the material they learn.
  2. Do not put in their best effort, only looking to get through school instead of truly learn. Students in this strategy do not want to work towards a higher level of understanding, instead seeking only to get good grades or to coast through school without applying themselves.

 

Payoffs

AA In this option, the teachers go through the work of redesigning education in order to best teach their students, while the students put forth their best effort to take advantage of the opportunities and learn as much as possible.

 

Administrators – Teachers have to go through the added work of reshaping education, as well as finding new ways to assess students that does not involve a GPA scale. This would be extremely difficult to design, as well as keep in place. Instead of simply giving a grade on right or wrong, the teachers would have to think critically about a student’s individual performance and assess based on that. However, since students have the best opportunity to succeed in this case, the additional workload would be put to good use. I am giving this a value of 0, since the additional workload is balanced by the student’s success.

 

Students – Students would not only learn the material, but would truly understand it. The revamped education system would allow them to freely explore and be rewarded for it. They would not be assessed on blind memorization, but on the creativity and engagement that they demonstrate. Not only do students in this case receive good reviews and learn material, but they feel rewarded for exploring and being creative, leading to better mental health. I am giving this a value of 2 because students learn the most and are happiest in this situation.

 

ABIn this option, the teachers go through the work of redesigning education in order to best teach their students, while the students do not put forth their best effort, instead seeking to coast by and simply get through school.

 

Administrators – Teachers have to go through the added work of reshaping education, as well as finding new ways to assess students that does not involve a GPA scale. This would be extremely difficult to design, as well as keep in place. Instead of simply giving a grade on right or wrong, the teachers would have to think critically about a student’s individual performance and assess based on that. Additionally, the student’s lack of engagement and will to learn the material provides no benefit for the administrator, as they would have gone through so much work for no payoff. I am assigning this a value of -2.

 

Students – Students would give very little to no effort, only trying to get by. The student’s scores would be low, but the newly revamped education system would give them more opportunities to “slip up” and still get away with it. Students would have good mental health, but learn little to nothing. I am assigning this a value of -1.

 

BA In this option, the teachers do not go through the work of redesigning education, instead keeping it the same, while the students put forth their best effort to get good grades.

 

Administrators – Administrators do not have to go through the work of reshaping education, instead leaving the system as is. They are able to assess large quantities of students quickly. Students would also put forth their best effort, meaning that test scores are high. This is the ideal situation for the administrators, so they get the best payoff of 2.

 

Students – Students would do their best to learn as much as they can. However, because education would not have been redesigned, this would involve long hours of work of bland memorization instead of application. Students quickly get burnt out from the work. While test scores would be high, students do not get enough sleep and have very poor mental health. I am giving this a value of -1.

 

BB –  In this option, the teachers do not go through the work of redesigning education, instead keeping it the same, while the students do not put forth their best effort, instead seeking to coast by and simply get through school.

 

Administrators – Administrators do not have to go through the work of reshaping education, instead leaving the system as is. They are able to assess large quantities of students quickly. However, students have low test scores and a lack of engagement. I am assigning this a value of 0, because students have low scores but it is less work for the administrators.

 

Students – Students would give very little to no effort, only trying to get by. The student’s scores would be low, however they would not have to go through the long hours of work and memorization. Student’s scores would be low but their mental health would be fine, so this gets a value of 0.

 

Matrix and Solution

 

 

Administrators

Students

 

A

B

A

0, 2

2, -1

B

-2,-1

0, 0

There is a saddle point at AA, meaning that the best option is for Administrators to re-design mathematics, and for students to try their best in school.

My Response: How do we fix math?

The Pod

The importance of encouraging students to explore and be more creative has never been more paramount. We need to re-shape the way we view the basics of education.

  • Let students sleep: We have a sleep epidemic in our youth. Kids simply are not sleeping enough, leading to a decline in metal and physical health.
  • Get rid of the GPA scale: GPAs are great for assessing large quantities of people very quickly. The problem is that the little 2 digit decimal doesn’t show the full picture. We need to move to a grading scale that reflets not the blind memorization and surface level learning of today’s education, but one that shows mastery of the subject.
  • No more standardized tests: Just like the GPA scale, these tests were designed to boil down a student’s abilities to a quantifiable number. Now adays, however, the only thing these tests reveal is your ability to take the test. The material is outdated and the scores have very little meaning.
  • Advocate for change: The only way that our crisis is going to improve is if people like you and me speak up. Show your math teacher this project, ask the head of the Math Department at your school about what you learned here. Most people don’t even know of this issue, so spread the word!

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from all of you on what you think. What has your experience with Mathematics been? Do you think the proposed change will help? Do you have any more ways you think we can help solve this issue? If you have an answer to any of these questions, or any questions for me, please leave them in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

Works Cited

Perschbacher, Emily. ‘Kids Don’t Hate Math; They Hate Being Frustrated’. 9 June 2018, www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/parenting/sc-back-to-school-math-family-0830-20160824-story.html.

Bethune, Sophie. Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults. Apr. 2014, www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/teen-stress.

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COMMENTS: 2
  1. April 27, 2020 by Rojan Naimi

    Hi Ethan! I thought your project would be really interesting to look at because I have always been taught math the same way at school and I’ve always hated it, so I was curious to see the different ways you were going to suggest. I like how you presented solutions that both students and teachers could do to make a change in the educational system. Your project was really informative and cool. Great job!

  2. April 27, 2020 by Owen

    This project was very informative and interesting! I look foward to see how you would plan to employ this in the education system in the fututre!

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