Make math matter

June 2, 2010

I was assigned as the instructional designer for the Independent Study Math portfolio  for both high school and university courses.  As I reviewed the current online courses, I realized that the textbook is the instructor for these courses.  The instructional design of the courses is learning outcomes, discussion material which is usually what is already in the textbook, homework assignment, then a test.   The textbook do not put the concepts in a realistic, relevant context. I am looking at a redesign of the instruction.  Is it possible to design a math course within the context of other disciplines; for example, my husband teaches computer vision and his student have commented that they finally understand calculus as he explains it in the context of computer vision.   I know that I understood English much better after I took a foreign language.  My husband was helping our teenage son  with his geometry homework when my son exclaimed, “this is useless. When am I ever going to use this.” My husband replied “Geometry is very useful in animation.”  Newton, Galileo, daVinci observed phenomena that occurred in the world and they used a language to explain these real world observations.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Think about how to design a math lesson that incorporates a way to predict students preconceptions, and includes metacognition.  Are there tools? Can we use reciprocal teaching to predict, clarify, question, and summarize as a model for math instruction.
  • Divide the math curriculum into stories.  Think of kindergarten.  Every month is something special. Each week of the month has meaning.  Kindergarten is a a series of projects interspersed with games and challenges.
  • If math is a language, then why not teach it like you would teach a language.  How do students learn language?
  • I know that I learned Spanish by living in the country that spoke Spanish.  Can I take my students where math lives?  Immerse them in that environment.