13. Bring it Back to Nature
River deltas, lightning bolts and blood vessels. When we think of geometry and shapes, most of us think of squares and triangles. Yet, mathematical patterns can be found all around us.
Why are flowers so beautiful? This is because the angle of rotation makes the flower spiral look beautiful. It grows organically from a centre that expands out in a shape of a spiral – also known as rotational symmetry, or fractals. We can spin a flower around and it still looks the same.
Other natural mathematical patterns include the cross section of a tree trunk (concentric circles), the honeycomb from beehives (hexagons), and the patterns on a butterfly (symmetry). By showing students connection to nature, it encourages them to seek mathematical connections with a fresh pair of eyes.
14. Start with a Question: Inquiry-based Learning
Usually, mathematics class starts with answers. Here are the steps to multiply. Repeat. Here are the steps to find the perimeter. Repeat. What happens in this model is memorising the steps. There’s no room to imagine, explore or doubt.
Inquiry-based learning is about arousing and activating curiosity. What is a fresh take on number bonds or fractions? Think of a fun or intriguing piece of information can you use to stimulate your students’ curiosity. Let mathematics be about exploring and looking for clues.
What if you started the lesson with a question. For example, show the class a number pattern from 1 to 20 and say “There’s something hiding in this number pattern. Can you find it?” Or start with a prompt, “Does 36 ÷ 4 = 18 ÷ 2?” Give students time to make observations and ask questions so that real thinking happens.
15. Learn with your Students
As teachers, we feel the need to have the answers to all our students’ questions. So, when a student comes to us and asks a question that we don’t know, it can be daunting or maybe even a little embarrassing. But you are not a walking answer sheet.
Learning alongside your students is a great way to build trust and create opportunities for teachable moments. Instead of brushing their question aside, say, “You know, that’s a great question and I don’t have the answer to that. Let’s find out together.”
By having the courage to own that you don’t know, you’re modelling and teaching students that not knowing isn’t a bad thing – it’s the first step to learning.
Creating a Safe and Positive Space to Learn Mathematics
Our attitude influences how our students learn. When we are open and unafraid to own to our mistakes, it makes it safe for students to make and learn from their mistakes. Model the attitude, language, and behaviour you want to see in class.
At Mathletics, we are strong advocates of the Growth Mindset, fostering an enjoyment of mathematics and an ‘I can’ attitude. Use motivational posters in your classrooms, and cultivate a positive classroom environment through praise, reward systems.
Secondly, a flexible curriculum with the aid of digital tools promotes a positive mathematics learning environment. It allows you to differentiate content and instruction; to refine or extend learning for your students based on their levels and needs, making mathematics accessible to all.
eLearning resources like Mathletics create opportunities to allow students to take ownership of their learning. When students do so, it not only helps them to be successful at school, but also in life.