Math is easy or not(?)

On a sunny September morning, Linda stood as students filed in. Some shoving each other playfully, others still half asleep, others have talking to each other by not showing respect to her.

“Good morning!” Linda, 23, said in a loud and confident voice over the classroom chatter. Linda takes more than 10 minutes to make a classroom ready to study. This year is her first year in teaching mathematics. As a new teacher she learns much not only how to handle a students but also how to develop teaching method. She always reflected on many strategies and would often think “lots of great stuff”. However, she still needs support to develop her professionalism in teaching.  For example, her Cynicism: “The students don’t care!”; “I’ve been taught over and over again, but still wrong!”.

When I asked her, do you realize, why a lot of students find mathematics a subject difficult?. Or actually, is it really difficult subject or do we make it so?. Teacher should aware having a sense the part where the concern about being in teaching, the material/content, teacher’s stylish, belief, or others.

Ya, math is difficult, I don’t belief that mathematics is easy. Teachers in many countries will agree with me, that mathematics is definitely not easy. Anyway, I think we should not conceal this from students. Math is tricky, that’s it!. Not only about procedural, yep! Although, absolutely we still need it. I am always told to my students that math is a challenge, right?. Like a sport, math is sport. To understand Math you have to work. If it doesn’t hurt your brain you will make no progress, does you?!. That’s why it is interesting. I’ll give you a metaphor, people who are practiced jogging for the first time, they will get sore muscle, right?!. So, when you want to take the exercise, go ahead and do it!.

I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand (unknown)

What you teach? The procedural or the way to get out from the problem?. This is my question to Linda. She think, that she still teach math in procedural area. Well, no problem, she has many experiences in teaching mathematics’ method.

Do you think that functions is easy or not?. How to bring variable, the real number, f(x), domain, codomain are easy for students to understand it? . It is not the issue of computations, but about understanding the objects and their meaning, it is about the relation between two sets or more.

In high school we learn about functions. Look!, It took maybe 25 centuries ago, from the beginning of conceptual mathematics with Greeks, till the definition of function. Well, who will say that a function is easy to understand? It took a good thinker to find the relevant concepts. My students always confused what is the relation between the x and f(x), misunderstanding function notation is common types of mistakes. For teacher, when a function is expressed by a formula f(x) it is important to understand that the variable “x”, but how about the students?. Linda is fighting about what is the best way to teach function and still she hasn’t really found a way that is easy, either me. She told me, that she will give more an exercises to students. I asked her, is it the best way?. Perhaps, yes! However, hmmm, I told to Linda that exercises are not about doing the computations, but understanding.

For students take some self-confidence to say, ‘I can do it!’ as opposed to saying ‘No, I can’t do it’. And teacher will say “Yeah, I know It is difficult, but when you do it, you are so proud!”. They need self-regulation to have a brave do that. Some students are very different, you know!. Some will be very happy to go into books and look for help or ask other friend- simplify, they have self-regulation. But for most students usually it is about the teacher-student relationship. Students need teachers who say, here is a thing and I want to understand you. If the teacher is not passionate, it is very difficult. Linda really understands about it.

I remember years ago, in my first year in teaching mathematics, I was given full responsibility for ensuring that my students received an excellent math education that would set them up for future success. This is still my opportunities to learn about teaching method through experiment in classroom.

Mathematics is easy or not depends with teacher’s belief. The new Indonesian curriculum gives teacher more flexibility to think about teaching mathematics not only the procedural.

~Salam Penjelajah~

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