Learning Mathematics nowadays: a teacher’s side of the story
By Mary Suzette P. Vergara
For mathematical-analytical students, understanding and learning mathematics can be very simple with its objectiveness and repetitive processes which could be mastered through exercises and constant practice. However, individual differences as well as multiple intelligences also played great roles in the teaching and learning process. Thus, it is also true that the given reasons why mathematics becomes easy for some students are also the same reasons why it becomes very difficult for the rest of them, and one of the most effective ways to understand these students with incapabilities to learn the different lessons is trying to be on their shoes.
Teachers were once students, too! With all the learning struggles mastered and the learning tasks accomplished, comes a professional teacher who has no end of stories to tell. One of which may include the comparison of her memorable and meaningful learning experiences against the learning experiences that she has been trying to give her students at present. For a teacher who had undergone her basic education during the 90’s, it really made her wonder how learning Mathematics seemed to become more difficult for her secondary school students today in spite of all the available resources and overpowering technology.
Many questions had also been filling up her head as she tried to reflect on her teaching capabilities as well as the system where she is trying to fit herself in. Was the old curriculum unable to produce effective learning experiences in Mathematics that most of the teaching and learning approaches should be changed? Will it really be ineffective and unnecessary to let her students plainly memorize the multiplication tables that her former teachers let them perfectly recite before? Would it really be advantageous for the students to be taught of the different areas of mathematics within a school year? Do learners really need to always investigate and be the ones to discover the concepts for the learning process to be considered as the most effective? Why does it seem so hard to successfully teach Mathematics even despite following the provided ideal lesson plans or the prototype lesson plans? Most importantly, if she was taught of mathematics the old ways, does it mean she was not able to effectively learn the concepts, or the learning was just irrelevant?
Upon observations and critical analysis of the situations at hand, a number of underlying factors seem to have dominated the outcomes. One on the list would be the learners’ attitude which could greatly affect their way of perceiving and thinking of the importance of the subject being taught, with an excuse of having their gadgets, computer softwares and even applications which could instantly provide them with step-by-step solutions and exact answer to the given mathematical exercises or problems. It is also very noticeable that learners nowadays get used to group activities that during individual activities and assessments, they still run to their classmates for help even if the teacher is around and keeps on reminding them to mind their own works. Their aptitude could somehow become uncertain while their sense of pride overflowing. These and other scenarios become so depressing for the teachers that their level of motivation towards the teaching process has also been disturbed. These circumstances had also worsened for the reason that certain laws had been improperly interpreted and implemented producing a negative mindset to the point of having the students and other stakeholders not properly recognizing authorities in the classrooms. Most learners seem quite confident of themselves regardless of their poor performance in class. They perhaps feel entitled having so much protection that even teachers no longer know how to impose discipline in the classroom according to the law for the fear of losing their valued positions with a nonsense complaint from a learner or from parents tolerating the misbehavior of the child as a mask for their irresponsibility and lack of proper support. Furthermore, the situations got even worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the modular distance learning as the mode of learning delivery in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the common excuses of the learners for their poor academic performance in different subjects, especially in mathematics, was that this subject should be physically taught as they could hardly comprehend and understand the different mathematical concepts and problems by simply reading or accomplishing the activities in the modules on their own, aside from the fact that answers to the assigned activities had been readily available in the latter part of the modules as per instructed. Everyone was aware of this frustrating fact that is why different projects and programs had been imposed, proposed, and implemented just trying to bridge the learning gaps. However, students’ behavior towards learning had seemed to depreciate more after the resumption of face-to-face classes. They still seemed so relaxed and showed lack of interest in learning. They were probably not be able to find the significance of learning in school that they might also think of having their sacrifices not being paid off. These negative attitudes of learners consequently affected the level of motivation and enthusiasm of teachers especially whenever they feel humiliated and bullied by the learners. The teaching and learning processes should work in harmony to achieve the most desirable and beneficial results. Learners should not be the sole considerations but the teachers and other stakeholders as well. Teachers should be treated with equal importance and respect as the learners. Let us not forget that the learners’ rights end where the teachers’ rights begin and vice versa.
Perhaps, it is really not the curriculum which needs to be changed and improved, but the mindset and attitude of every individual towards teaching and learning. Let it be recalled that the great inventions of today are the products of successfully transferring the learning of their inventors which took place during the old forgotten days. Hence, fingers should not be pointing to the mathematics teachers alone as change is really a choice and will always begin from one’s own self. Everything can be learned; thus, mathematics can be learned, only that it requires positive outlook as well as necessary and appropriate effort, time and values.