Matific’s Education Expert, Brent Hughes
According to the IET, 203,000 people with engineering skills will be required each year to meet demand through to 2024, but it’s estimated there will be an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineering and technicians to fill these roles. (1)
Could this be due to the way we currently teach maths? Encouraging, and expecting, the rote learning of addition and subtraction, as well as times tables, without first teaching for understanding simply doesn’t work. It seems obtuse, intangible and, as our children point out, inapplicable to the real world – especially a world where everyone carries a calculator in their pocket.
This link between mathematical intelligence, rote learning, and then speed recall of those rote learnt facts, means that children often develop a negative relationship with maths – the idea that they’re just ‘not a maths person’. Maths anxiety has been recorded in children as young as five years old (2) – and the unfortunate result is that children that might have excelled in the subject, had they been given time and encouragement, are instead set against the subject forever.
English helps students articulate their very surroundings – its usefulness is perhaps more strikingly obvious than trying to teach five-year old’s numbers, but such a reductive view of the dichotomy between the two central subjects of the curriculum is mistaken because maths is everywhere you look. Its translatability across cultures and languages means a proper understanding of maths is vital to a proper understanding of the world.
Therein lies the problem: maths is essential, but kids are increasingly turning their backs on it. Enter Matific: a learning resource designed to look at the mathematics involved in the everyday happenings of the world and then create games to engage children in identifying this maths.
Matific employs the process of identifying the elements which make games fun, and motivate their players, and uses those elements to teach fundamental mathematics. Gamification in learning operates on the assumption that the high level of engagement gamers experience can be brought into educational contexts with the goal of facilitating learning. Whilst the nature of some video games is lamented the world over by worn-out parents tired of trying to impose limits on screen-time, harnessing this heightened engagement for good is the central mission of educational based gamification.
Coupling the benefits of the gaming world with real-world applicability makes Matific a real force to be reckoned with. Take, for example, one of the hundreds of games featured in Matific’s universe that helps kids learn to identify fractions by visual aid of different coloured birds sat on telephone wires. That’s a scene that kids see in their day to day life – so the statement that maths doesn’t apply to the real-world quickly becomes obviously untrue.
With continual reinforcement of this fact, children quickly see how maths is useful to them – how it’s something to be genuinely learnt, rather than simply short-term-memorised for a test or exam and then forgotten immediately afterwards.
The key to unlocking a whole new generation of highly engaged, mathematically competent kids appears to be this fusion of relatability with gamification, and encouragement in classrooms of a more holistic approach to teaching maths that doesn’t bestow the highest prize on those who have the fastest recall.
2 Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E., Levine, S., and Beilock, S. (2013). Math Anxiety, Working Memory and Math Achievement in Early Elementary School. Journal of Cognition and Development. 14 (2): 187–202.
So much to do, so little time. It is a trite phrase, but when I found myself as the only DigiTech teacher in the school, it suddenly gained a lot more meaning.
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