What are pseudocontexts, and should K-6 math teachers be concerned about them?
I came across the term in Dan Meyer’s excellent blog, in which he explores better ways of engaging students in learning math, and calls out “fake math” and poor teaching. You should go check out Dan’s work, I find it really challenging and encouraging.
As a publisher of educational content for K-6 math, I am deeply concerned about students’ recognition of the importance and the usefulness, the utility of the math they learn.
This means that I am always looking for ways to show students examples of math in real life. But does that mean I have to restrict my examples to ones where someone is asking a specific math question that matches the topic students are learning, or can I ask questions which someone might ask, but probably didn’t?
What do you think? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts.
Recent examples of “math in real life contexts” are found in my Where’s the Math? video series, which you can see here. Am I guilty of introducing pseudocontexts?
In the busyness of classroom teaching, do you find math lessons becoming a bit stale? Are textbook lessons getting you and your students down a bit?
I believe that students crave interesting, relevant lessons, especially in math. How can we provide such lessons?
It’s a simple idea: find real math going on in the world around you and bring it to the children’s attention.
In the video I talk a bit about the new kitchen we’re having put in. There’s a heap of math that the builders have to get right, including measurement, simple arithmetic and three-dimensional geometry.
What can you talk about with your students? Here are some ideas:
Real-Life Contexts for K-6 Math: Some Suggestions
Take photos with your smartphone, add them to PowerPoint slides, ask students “What do you notice?” or “What questions are you thinking of?”
Talk about shopping experiences where you had to figure out a best buy, someone gave you the wrong change or something cool happened
Explain how you adapted a recipe for a different number of servings
Talk about your favourite sport and how rankings work, and how many points teams have to win to come out on top this season
Talk about designing something cool, such as a garden, a craft project, a greeting card or a decorated cake
What ideas have you used to bring classroom math to life? Leave a comment below.
Indigenous students in Australia typically lag two years behind other kids in math: a disappointing statistic by any measure. Dr Chris Matthews of Griffith University has come up with a new approach that shows great promise for connecting indigenous kids with mathematics.
Going further, I believe that this new method would help any kids of a non-mainstream background to understand math. Watch the video for more:
The approach recommended by Dr Matthews is explained by Prof Tom Cooper of the YuMi Deadly Centre at QUT, using the acronym RAMR:
Reality: connect first of all with students’ existing culture and interests. In the case of indigenous kids, this includes story telling and dance
Abstraction: come up with ways to turn stories and concerns into mathematical problems, equations and so on
Mathematics: invent mathematics in standard symbolic format to capture the original question or scenario
Reflect: consider the result and match the mathematical results with the original source situation and consider how well the mathematics enabled the solution for the problem, or explained a story in mathematical terms
[Click the link below to watch Prof Cooper’s explanation]
But a teacher who teaches students of non-indigenous but also non-mainstream backgrounds could adopt the same basic pedagogy, starting with those students stories, culture and questions that interest them.
Mathematics has sadly often been presented as the product of a lot of “old white males”, which for some students immediately puts them offside and makes math irrelevant and boring, in those students’ minds. This approach deals with this problem by starting with examples from the students’ own culture and background.
What do you think?
How should we teach math to students from backgrounds other than our own? Share a comment below.
Rain gauges measure rainfall by collecting a small sample and measuring how deep the water is. The trouble is, we are interested in very small units – in the metric system, rainfall is measured in millimetres/millimeters. How can you accurately measure such small amounts?
How can we use everyday examples to teach measurement?
Watch the video: I explain how a rain gauge amplifies the depth of water collected to make it easier to measure.