It has been said by many reform mathematicians that the traditional math instruction is less effective compared to the alternative and modern methods for instructing mathematics.

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I agree with them totally since the traditional math instruction over emphasizes working step by step as instructed without necessarily understanding how this steps are arrived at sometimes. It is more of memorization than real understanding of the math being worked out.

This is confirmed in both Wiggins’, Educative Assessment and Bransford’s How People Learn, but it is important for students to understand, rather than just memorize. Students ought to given    a leeway in solving mathematical problems in their own way. this will give room for creativity and make the student more involved. this results in giving the student leadership role in bringing change in  many aspects.  Traditional mathematics fails to present math as a creative or enjoyable subject.

 It has been found that only a small percentage of students achieve the highest levels of mathematics achievement. this could be because most students have taken mathematics to be a very boring subject which no one wants to spend their life time doing or even involved with.

Many students in the United States use calculators to work out problems without understanding the math involved. In as much as use of calculator is essential in this modern era of technology, it is important for the student to understand what he/she is computing with the calculator.  The conceptual understanding must coexist with computational skills, so that room for more discovery  and exploration can be created.

Mathematics educators, such as Alan Schoenfeld, questions whether traditional mathematics actually teaches mathematics as understood by professional mathematicians and other experts. Instead, Schoenfeld implies, students come to perceive mathematics as a list of disconnected rules that must be memorized and parroted.

Research suggests that certain approaches to traditional mathematics instruction does not give students chance for discovery. On the other hand, conceptual mathematics creates self awareness and the awareness of the world around. A student will ask him/herself what am I good at? Howdo I learn? How do I figure things out? What things confuse me?  What things do I enjoy learning? And so on.

Page 2 Traditional math Vs Conceptual math Essay

“The old ways of teaching mathematics have failed. Too many children are scared of mathematics for life. Let’s teach them mathematical thinking, not routine skills. Understanding isthe key, not computations”. Wilfried Schmid 2000 publication. He suggests that mathematics should be made engaging and interesting, and not giving up on the basic skills

I believe we can apply action research to solve many problems we have especially the traditional mathematics. To make students involved, to make mathematics interesting and enjoyable, to give students room for exploration and discovery, to make students to be aware of themselves and the world around them and to be innovative. Conceptual understanding can convert tacit knowledge of student’s progress to explicit knowledge. many students may not know that they can perform very well in mathematics. when they judge from the scores they obtain in their continous assessment tests, they might think they are poor in mathematics.

This could be because of the way they are expected to memorize the steps and procedures in solving math problems. this could also be as a result of repetations involved in traditional methods of instruction of mathematics.

Gender disparity in mathematics

Research has shown that girls perform poorly in mathematics compared to boys in high school. (National Assessment Tests, show boys lead girls in math). In today’s information and problem solving world, mathematical skills and ability are critical to success. Unfortunately, statistics and research provide evidence to show there is a gap in mathematics performance between girls and boys.

Research also shows that girls are underrepresented in careers related to mathematics such as engineering, geo physics and so on. It is a challenge for educators and parents to deal with this issue. This problem could have been caused by many factors including traditional mathematical instructions.

Frankstein (1997) showed that the use of critical mathematics from the real context of the student could assist in making mathematics more equitable and accessible for the students. This is a challenge to the teachers and instructors of mathematics to come up with ways of making mathematics applicable in the context of the student. it would make math more meaningful to many students who dont see the need to study some topics in mathematics.

Other mathematicians such as (Peressini, 1997; Strutches, Thomas, and Perkins; 1997), have stressed the importance of involving parents in the decision making process to increase availability of mathematics to students from underrepresented and/ or underachieving backgrounds.

Project

How can a school make girls to like math and develop a positive attitude towards mathematics related careers?  The main aim of this project is to investigate ways in which gender disparity can be reduced in mathematics and performance of girls in mathematics be brought at par with the performance of the boys in a school set up.

Participants

The participants of this research will be all math teachers in the school; they will collaborate and formulate the best method for collecting the data. They will come up with the correct questionnaires  for both the girls and their parents/guardians.  The head teacher/principal will be the one to approve for such projects and the funding that might go with it. The girl students in the school and the parents of the girl students would the ones to be interviewed.

Methodology

Kemmis and wilkinson (1998) discussed the characteristics of  participatory action research methodology (PAR). This is the most suitable to use in this project because of its charecteristics shown. It is social activity in that it deliberately explores the relationship between the individual and the social. Secondly PAR is participatory. It engages people in engaging their knowledge and interpret their categories.

PAR is also collaborative in that researchers aim to work together in reconstructing their social interactions i.e. research done with others. PAR is also emancipatory in that it aims to help people recover and unshackle themselves from the constraints of irrational, unproductive ways of working and relating to others.

Finally PAR is reflexive in that it aims to help people to investigate reality in order to change it (Fals Borda, 1979), and to change reality in order to investigate it.

Procedure

A questionnaire for the girls and their parents will be developed to help collect the required data. The questionnaires will be given to the girls to fill at home with their parents during a weekend. It consists of two sections, section one for the girl and  section two  for the parent. It will have questions that look like this.

Section 1(questions for the girl)

1.      Which is your best subject?

2.      Do you like math lessons? (give a reason)

3.      Have you had more than one math teacher in your school life?

4.      Do you have any favorite math teacher? ( if so, give a reason for your liking him/her)

5.      What is your perception of your confidence in the content of math? Are good or poor in math?

6.      What career would you like to pursue in life

7.      What is your attitude towards math related careers such as engineering?

Section 2 (questions for parent/guardian)

1.      What course would you have your daughter pursue in college?

2.      What career would you like your daughter to pursue?

3.      Would it be necessary for your daughter to pursue a math related career?

4.      What is your perception about girls pursuing math related careers?

The data will be analized and used to find out what contributes to poor performance and a negative attitude towards math and math related careers among the girls. The finding will be analyzed and the causes of poor performance identified.

Onece the causes are identified, a plan for interventionary strategy will made to help solve this problem. ie the negative attitude and poor performace. The intervention will then be implemented or carried out within a time frame of about five years. observations in various forms will be made every academic year and results analyzed.

The cycle will be repeated yearly and the result recorded. at the end of five years, a report will be given. If the report is a success, the intervention will be implemented fully and also passed to other schools or district council. Other wise a new intervention will be tried untill a solution to the problem  is achieved.

 A problem has been realized, that girls are underrepresented in college majors and math related courses. everyone agrees with the research findings. for this problem to be corrected, it will have to take everyones contribution, the teachers must implement new methods of instructing math that will encourage all genders equally.

 The parents on the other side will have to play a very important role motivating their daughters to love math. The whole society will need to change the misconception about math related carriers not relevant for female. Change is gradual, it will take some time but with spirited effort to effect it.

References

kemmis, s. and wilkinson, m.(1998) participatory action research

Frankenstein, M. (1997). In addition to the mathematics: Including          equity issues in the curriculum. In J. Trentacosta (Ed.),       Multicultural and gender equity in the mathematics classroom:       The gift of diversity—1997 Yearbook (10-22).  Reston, VA:          NCTM.

Peressini, D. Building Bridges between diverse families and the    classroom: Involving parents in school mathematics. In J.      Trentacosta, & M. Kenny (Eds.), Multicultural and gender equity in mathematics classroom (222-229). Reston, Va.: NC T M.

Trentacosta, J., & Kenny, M. (1997). Multicultural and gender equity       in mathematics classroom. Reston, Va.: NC T M.

Willis, S. (1989). Real girls don’t do maths: Gender and the           construction of privilege. Geelong: Deakin University.

Strutchens, M., Thomas, D., & Perkins, F. D. (1997), Mathematically       empowering urban African American students through family         involvement. In J. Trentacosta, & M. Kenny (Eds.), Multicultural and gender equity in mathematics classroom (230-235). Reston,           Va.: NC T M.
 

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