Should the Teaching of Mathematics in Secondary Schools Be Resource Based?

Traditionally, the teaching of Mathematics in secondary schools rarely included the use of resources other than a text book. This was “satisfactory” because most of the student body was academically included. In today’s jargon, using Gardener’s learning styles; they were most likely maths-logic learners.

The prevailing pedagogue was “Chalk and Talk”. In simple terms it was lecture style approach followed by lots of worked exercises from simple to harder (more complex) examples. There was little or no attempt to teach problem solving skills needed to solve unfamiliar problems.

With the introduction of all students into secondary education in the mid twentieth century, the steady raising of the school leaving age and the expectation of parents that their offspring get the opportunity to seek university qualifications mathematics teachers had to work with students who could not learn just with the “Chalk and Talk” approach. Many able learners found that Mathematics seemed to have no real life meaning to them and they sought, when allowed, to leave their Mathematics classes for other subjects.

The “Chalk and Talk” approach did not help the slow learner to absorb the Mathematics that they needed to survive as a citizen in modern society. Behaviour problems abounded in Mathematics classrooms.

It became obvious to teachers and administrators and syllabus writers that vast changes needed to be made in the teaching of Mathematics. In Australia, corporations were crying out for problem solvers. They found Mathematics graduates were not. This prompted syllabus writers to look at the teaching approaches that would not only lead students to become real problem solvers but pedagogue that would enhance the learning of those who were not maths-logic learners. This also meant that assessment procedures should reflect the ways in which particular topics were taught.

Added to all of this was the advent of the calculator, (four operations, scientific and graphics calculators) which meant that much more in the way of real life problems could be incorporated in a mathematics lesson. The computer added further to this. At the same time, the time allocated to the teaching of Mathematics was being reduced particularly in secondary schools with other subject disciplines gaining that time.

The technology revolution meant there were topics in the Mathematics syllabus that were redundant and thus removed. The field of Mathematics had expanded. The study of probability and statistics had expanded dramatically and was widely used in the community. Consequently, many new topics were added to the syllabus to reflect modern developments in Mathematics and its use in the community.

Many of these new topics were not conducive to “Chalk and Talk”. Some required a hands-on approach; others needed the use of multi-media; and still other required the use of technology. Internet became a valuable resource for real life problems. Technology often allowed the teacher to work at greater depth in less time with their students.

Some of these resources could be used successfully in non-traditional assessment items. These assessment techniques often allowed the non-maths-logic thinkers to gain greater success.

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