This article in Business North was titled “Teachers Learn to Make Math Fun, Engaging”, which alone would have caused me not to read any further, but I was curious as to how many tropes I would run into. The article doesn’t disappoint.
It starts off with an opening as classic (and nausea inducing) as Denny’s bacon and egg eye-opener:
“When will I ever use this in my real life?” is a plaintive question students often pose to their math teachers. For over 20 area elementary and middle school teachers, the “Engage, Learn, and Connect Math Topics” summer workshop at The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) provided teachers some solid ways to respond to that perennial question.
I usually find that students ask this when they are frustrated and/or having difficulty with a particular type of procedure or problem. When they are capable of doing the procedure, they tend to be just as engaged as they would with any activity. Not to mention that the prevalence of this question is helped along by TV sitcoms that may feature such a situation. The question is met with the predictable laugh track as the camera zooms in to a close up of teacher’s frustrated expression.
“Engagement is key. There is no one size fits all approach to teaching. Workshops like ours help to bridge some gaps and help teachers dispel some misconceptions of what it means to study math.”
Of course, what is ignored is what I pointed out above; that proper instruction that allows students to be able to do problems and stretch beyond the initial worked example breeds success. And success in turn breeds motivation. But the pervasive group think is that engagement comes first, and then success and motivation follow.
And part and parcel to engagement, is this gem of a trope without which no article would be complete:
“It is important for our society to prepare kids for the jobs of the future. There are new jobs that don’t even exist yet that will come as a result of the new ideas in the math and science fields. We want to engage students so they know they can succeed in those fields and to prepare them to be ready for the new opportunities yet to come.”
Oops, I guess I did finish the article, didn’t I?