Article Summary: As states and territories in Australia deal with the continuing of lockdowns, and NSW plans on leaving lockdown and returning students to school, Maths Australia CEO, Esther White recently discussed in an interview the crucial importance of maths. All subjects rely on literacy and numeracy - and without this students can lose confidence in other subjects, negatively affecting their school experience, mental health and peer relationships.
Without maths, all other learning grinds to a halt
Maths is a lynch pin to learning almost anything. Have you ever considered just how big an impact maths has on every other subject?
Artists use geometric shapes, lines and angles.
Musicians count bars, measure intervals, or play fifths or sevenths chords.
Historians use dates and distances to record historical events.
In geography, we measure contours, have an equator around the earth and follow patterns of weather temperatures and precipitation.
And science is obviously very reliant on maths. From measuring inertia to genome sequencing and recording the speed of sound, light and the distance and speed required to smash two atoms together in the Large Hadron Collider.
Maths is the language of the Universe. So the more equations you know, the more you can converse with the cosmos
How to effectively return to school after leaving lockdown in Australia
We cannot exit lockdowns and expect students to have all learned like they do at school. And certainly not at the same rate as each other. And we can't bank on students being up to speed with the 'expected' curriculum.
Ticking a box on Google Classroom doesn't necessarily mean they've actually retained or mastered any of it.
Some children will have thrived learning from home. For those parents with capacity to help their student/s, the 1-to-1 support will have accelerated the pace at which students could learn.
But many students have had, shall we say, "less-than-ideal" home learning environments. Access to learning materials, schools with less equipment, shared or no devices at home, no dedicated space, distracted learning environments, disengagement due to the passive nature of 'online learning' content, parent work schedules, limited access to teachers. The list could go on forever...
These students will now feel like they've been left behind their accelerated peers and the differentiation spectrum for teachers could be enormous.
Numeracy and literacy need to be priority #1
We need to firstly focus on literacy and numeracy as they are the underpinning of all other subjects. And it's not just so students can 'learn' in those other subjects.
It's so they feel confident.
We've had so many encounters at Maths Australia with students who think they're "dumb at maths" or "just don't have a maths brain".
It's simply not true.
They've just missed a foundational principle along the way somewhere and lost their confidence because everyone around them 'gets it' and they don't.
If only they could understand it's simply that they don't understand... yet.
When a student loses confidence in maths, it starts to trickle into other areas of their studies and their life.
And this can negatively affect their confidence in learning, their mental health, their engagement in classes, how they relate to peers and friends and their behaviour.
Teachers have a massive job on their hands to make sure they are differentiating learning based on where each student is up to in their understanding, whether that be in maths, english or any other subject.