Lifestyles

Do the math

Math teacher Rebecca Hay. - Greta Hamilton/The Mirror
Math teacher Rebecca Hay.
— image credit: Greta Hamilton/The Mirror

Between students and teachers alike, there is a war on math in Canada and its relevance in schools today.

“At the beginning of the 20th Century, Latin was a required subject. By the end of century, Latin was gone,” said Eric Muller, a math professor at Brock university, in the Globe and Mail two weeks ago. “What will mathematics be by the end of this century?”

As a student, it’s my personal belief mathematics are a direly important subject to study: even despite  my wondering “When will I ever factor a polynomial in the real world?”

It remains relevant because it’s a means of brain development accessed in no other way. A good math class has a balance of skill and problem solving questions to provoke logical thought using prior knowledge to find a solution.

Recently I sat down with local math teacher and enthusiast Rebecca Hay to discuss its relevancy. She said mathematics are a skill students must make an effort to obtain. “Students don’t realize they have to work to start finding the right answers. The kids that come in here with the best (work) ethic are the ones who get the best grades.”

We talked about the maturity and determination that accompanies students who are good at math.

“It teaches not only the skills, but good work habits,” she says.

Often the counter argument in this war is that students are sensitive and anxious about math, especially with the way some teachers approach it.  I can attest I often tried to tune out the lessons and avoid confronting my slipping grade. In the end, I had to face the reality that I needed to do the homework and solve the problem I had given myself. This shift in attitude was the maturity I obtained through the course.

Mathematics, although seemingly unnecessarily stressful, gives students a fair idea of the responsibilities they’ll face in the future.

So yes, this war on math is futile because it’s relevant for teaching students work ethic and determination. The style of teaching is determined by the teacher, which varies not the math lessons, but the life lessons to be learned. I can only hope mathematics remain in the curriculum and don’t become a dead language.

 

Correction

In a previous version of this article, a quote attributed to Rebecca Hay said that the school district told the teacher that she could not fail students. This referenced a generalized complaint middle school school teachers have and was mistakenly used out of context. It was not made in reference to Hay’s personal experience or teaching directions with regards to teaching high school math. The Mirror apologizes for the error.

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