Attitudes to Math Learning with Boys and Girls

Teman-teman sekalian, isu gender dalam belajar di kelas terkadang masih muncul. Bisa terjadi karena adanya kesengajaan, bisa juga terjadi karena kita melakukannya tanpa sadar. Sobat saya dari UWC (United World College) Singapura, Mary van der Heijden, menulis ulasannya mengenai hal tersebut dalam pembelajaran matematika dan pernah dimuat di Jurnal Himpunan Matematika Indonesia. Sayang rasanya apabila disimpan begitu saja.  Bagi teman-teman yang ingin mengetahui lebih banyak hal tersebut, silahkan membaca artikelnya.

Equity issues in education have been a focal point in the study of students learning mathematics. Society often presents views that are not always conducive to good mathematics learning or instructions. Many times, good performance in mathematics is viewed as the exception rather than the rule. Frequently, boys were expected to perform better than girls in mathematical settings. For years there was an unstated position that nice girls did not do mathematics. Thankfully, that attitude has changed. Schools often target girls and look at their performance over time. But there is still peer pressure in some segments of school society that places negative value on good performance in mathematics. Such perceptions can destroy the ambition s of some students.

As a teacher of mathematics it is your responsibility to ‘sell’ the subject to all students. As an effective representative of your product, what do you do to create an appealing atmosphere? How do you convince all students in your classes they can succeed? Can you demonstrate applications of the concepts being learned? When a student says ‘When will I ever use this?’, what will you say? Students have become hardened to the learning of mathematics. Many of them are convinced there is no earthly value to the subject. We give them examples supposedly from every day life. For some strange reason, the answer to our problems are almost always integers. Somehow students are aware that, in the real world, the answers are not always integers. We give them ‘real world’ problem to work with, but often these situations are not from their world and rarely are they aimed at girls. We should provide equity for all students who must be encouraged in all mathematical settings.

The constructivist philosophy has evolved in the last 50 years. Adherents of constructivism support the notion that children learn effectively through interactions with experiences in their natural environment.

Steffe and Killion (1986) state that, from a constructivist perspective, ‘mathematics teaching consists primarily of the mathematical interactions between a teacher and children’. This indirect approach to instruction allows the students to learn in the context of meaningful activities. Learning is a life-long process that results from interactions with a multitude of situations (Brown et al., 1989).

The constructivist approach does not focus solely on the action of the teacher or the learner, but on the interactions between the two. The teacher should make a conscious effort to see their own personal actions as well as the student’s from the student’s point of view (Cobb and Steffe, 1983).

The following list goes hand in hand with the ideals above.

1. The teacher of mathematics must consider the prior conceptions the students brings into the classroom. You will need to alter your instructional strategies and materials depending upon the student’s prior experiences with mathematics and life.

2. The teacher of mathematics should try to assist the learner in discovering mathematical concepts and ideas.

3. Students learn mathematics by doing mathematics using real world examples and settings.

4. Teachers of mathematics must identify how individual students learn and develop activities or strategies to help them best accomplish objectives placed before them.

5. Teachers of mathematics must be willing to teach to different learning styles and ability levels. Mathematics is for all students.

6. Teachers of mathematics need to be able to use more than one instructional strategy for each concept.

7. The teacher of mathematics must help students learn how to learn the concepts of mathematics. Developing an understanding of the process is more helpful than memorizing an algorithm or formula.

In reality, these pointers are not just confined to learning and teaching in math but in all subjects.

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