Student engagement. Those words are the dream and the nightmare for every school teacher no matter what subject or age group. Everywhere.
Engagement is easily one of the hardest parts about being a teacher. Getting students to buy into what you’re teaching, without questioning the purpose or disagreeing with the usefulness, is the ultimate goal. Teachers dream of having students engage themselves in the content. Our goal is to have students who want to know more about the skills and ideas being taught.
I know, some of you are thinking, “When I was a in school we just had to sit, listen, and take notes. No one cared if we were into the lesson or wanted to know more about a given topic.” While that may be true (to a point), there is tremendous value in having a lesson where students can clearly see the point, the ‘why’, and have the desire to learn the about the topic or master the skill.
Without engagement in what is being taught the subject, whatever it may be, becomes stale and boring because there is no personal involvement. You can’t make students love math but you can make them want to find the answer to an engaging question. For instance, most of my students could really not care less about how to solve a system of linear equations, but if I ask them which cell phone plan is the better deal for a certain contract time they want to find the answer because they can see immediate pay-off in knowing how to find the answer.
Algebra is all around us, hidden in plain sight as normal, day-to-day consumer decisions.
In an age where many students can’t see the value in learning something that isn’t immediately applicable to their lives finding something they can relate to is vital. I’m not saying there aren’t going to be lessons (or even whole units) that won’t be immediately useful to them, but the more you can bring in the day to day usefulness of math the more likely they are to believe you when you tell them that they will, indeed, use math after high school. (Even if they don’t solve the problems the same way…)
As a fourth year teacher, I’m really just starting out on my journey to becoming an effective teacher. I think if I can add a few great, engaging ideas to my lessons every term I’ll get there…
Though, I’ve heard the really great teachers never believe they’ve mastered it all!
Do you have ideas about day-to-day consumer topics you think fit well into the math classroom? Have some of your own teacher thoughts to share?
I want to hear them!
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