Shaira, a second-grader, finds numbers absolutely fascinating – she can spend hours solving her textbook word problems. When she sees her parents handing a Tk1,000 note to a shopkeeper against a purchase of Tk255, a mental calculation is already underway, to figure out the amount of change before anyone, like a fun game.
She feels like the word problems from her math book just got real! On the other hand, Sarfaraz, her elder brother studying in the fourth grade, finds it quite difficult to make quick calculations. Grasping mathematical concepts, especially within a typical classroom setting, does not come naturally to him.
From counting the number of peas on a plate to share equally among siblings to figuring out the best fitting price for a 1500 sq ft apartment, mathematics marks its presence everywhere. The subject, generally dreaded by many, is not limited to theorems, curves, derivatives and standard deviation, but is all about the numbers and making sense of them.
Most importantly, it is a part of daily life.
Math is not only targeted towards preparing us for academic excellence rather it is a brain exercise. It nurtures the necessary skills of reasoning, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking. Adding to that, its implications in daily life make it even more crucial for children to feel comfortable with numbers.
From the very moment children receive their first-ever math lesson, teachers must keep in mind that every child learns differently, and a "one size fits all" approach is not ideal. A typical lecture consisting of some textbook problem-solving may have been enough for the likes of Shaira, but for Sarfaraz, a more holistic approach consisting of effective two-way communication might have been necessary.
Recently, methods of Singapore Math have been marking a change in how math is being taught around the world. It is a highly effective teaching approach based on research on math mastery in Singapore, focusing on the holistic approach of math lessons, as discussed above, making math exciting for learners.
Under this approach, students learn through CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression, number bonds, bar modelling and mental math.
The CPA progression translates words into pictures or diagrams, tangibly introducing concepts, while number bonds work on clarifying the part-whole relationship between numbers. Bar Modeling comes as a visual aid for students to clearly understand math concepts such as fractions, ratios and percentages, and mental math helps students develop number sense and flexibility in thinking processes.
While teaching under this approach, instructors recognise that each child needs their lecture tailored to their learning capacities. They come in with an approachable attitude to create a friendly environment for the students.
Instead of memorising, students learn to think mathematically and rely on the depth of knowledge gained previously. This is done by building confidence in learning by themselves and believing that making mistakes is okay.
It trains students to think better and solve problems effectively through pictures, games and conversations with a rationale behind them. They are engaged in several activities – be it computer games or fieldwork – which allow them to learn by themselves and take ownership of their learning. This helps them to internalise the knowledge by making it theirs and not just another lesson learned in the classroom.
Consequently, children learn to relate all of it to real life, making them ever so comfortable with the concepts. They learn that maths is not just boring homework but exists beyond books and classes – just the way Shaira experiences the subject.
Eventually, this can go a long way in instilling complex mathematical concepts within young minds.
Schools such as International School Dhaka (ISD) have been following such philosophies and applying these methods, ensuring effective learning among young minds. Through exciting games, activities and two-way communication, children can learn maths like never before. They can ask questions and review their perspectives without fear of judgement, which is exactly what we need for a generation comfortable with numbers.
Now is the time for children to learn maths for fun, not just for marks.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.