‘I’m not a maths person.’
That’s a statement you’ve all probably heard many times. However, the skills that students learn in mathematics are among the most practical taught in school. Mathematics underpins the world we live in and it teaches our children valuable problem-solving skills.
Mathematics provides us with a language to explain much of the world we live in. Without numbers, we wouldn’t be able to count things, and there would be no way to quantify differences, such as the score between two football teams at the end of a match. Without measurement skills, we wouldn’t be able to determine the time of day or be able to calculate the distance between two cities. Without geometry skills, we wouldn’t have many of the fantastic buildings that make up our cities and towns. Without probability and statistics, we would have no idea what the weather might be like tomorrow!
Studying complex mathematics can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour; however, it’s not realistic to expect all learners to appreciate the simplistic beauty of an elegantly written proof. Instead, placing mathematics in context is critical when it comes to engaging students with their mathematics learning. Thankfully, school mathematics helps in this regard. For example, in Year 7, students can learn how to accurately cater for a birthday party using ratios, how to convert temperatures from Celsius into Fahrenheit (or Kelvin!), and how to conduct a survey and interpret the results accordingly.
School mathematics teaches essential skills that everyone should possess. This includes not always being right and having the ability to work a problem through. Getting incorrect answers along the way must be embraced as part of the learning process. From personal experience I find it much more fulfilling to solve a problem I initially struggled with than those which I found relatively straight forward.
I’d like to imagine a future where no one says, ‘I’m not a maths person’ – not because they feel it’s an inappropriate thing to say, but because everyone has the confidence to study this essential subject. Mathematics learning should be fun!
By Evan Curnow, OUP Senior Publisher – Mathematics | Secondary