Before the advent of universal secondary education, the mathematics teacher had a select group of students who were most likely, in terms of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, maths-logic thinkers. So there was no real need for the Mathematics teacher to change the pedagogue away from “chalk and talk” and lots of exercise practice.
But the second half of the twentieth century saw most students progress to secondary schools. Soon, most students were continuing on to complete their secondary education with most continuing to study Mathematics. This meant that these students had a variety of learning styles which we might equate to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.
This meant that teachers of Mathematics had to expand their pedagogue and teach new skills to help all students in their mathematical development. At this time, I was the head of a Mathematics Department in a large school going through the introduction of new syllabuses designed to bring Mathematics teaching into a position where it could cater for these different learning styles.
The syllabus content was being modernised. The use of computers, scientific and graphics calculator along with the Internet became mandated. This lead I to think about the additional skills my students needed to develop. Other teachers in other subject areas were most likely wanting to develop them, too.
The request from another school to have me explain how my department coped with a change from 40 minute to 70 minute periods began me thinking about these skills. I discussed my list and gained its acceptance at the workshop.
Below is a list of the additional skills I believe we, Mathematics teachers, should strive to develop as early as possible. (A short explanation may be included with each skill.)
- Communication skills. One of the aspects of some new syllabuses is the introduction of problems in unfamiliar contexts which need the solutions to be fully communicated.
- Calculator skills. The calculator enables the student to do necessary calculations quickly. Students need to be taught checking and estimation skills to facilitate their use correctly. Graphics calculators have in-built programs that allow more in depth real life problems.
- Computer skills.
- Internet skills.
- Skills in how to concentrate effectively in class. This is important as there is less time allocated to the teaching of Mathematics than in the past. This should incorporate skills in how to be a powerful listener.
- Textbook skills. This is the student’s first option in consolidation of the classroom learning. The student needs to know how best to use it.
- Homework and study skills.
- Examination skills including how to go about solving a problem and how to develop an examination technique that helps guarantee the best results.
- Problem solving/critical thinking skills. And
- In the senior school where life becomes extremely busy, organisational skills.
These skills cannot be developed overnight. There must be a commitment by all Mathematics teachers to introduce them from day one of the student’s secondary school life as the opportunity arises. Separate lessons on the skills are not the best options. Dropping different skill ideas into day to day lessons is a better option since the student will see it in an everyday event, not a contrived one.
What I have suggested here in many ways is a “Wish List”. If all the Mathematics teachers adopt the need for these skills, they will gradually, over the years, become a natural part of the student’s Mathematics persona.