2 Reasons why teaching maths in primary schools is different from secondary schools 2023
Learning by understanding should have been the rule of thumb while teaching maths in classrooms. But, the Indian teaching method has relied on rote learning which does not help students excel in the higher classes. Secondary school maths is based on moving from concrete to abstract and thus requires Higher Order Thinking known as hots questions in the maths textbooks.
While some teachers plan their classroom activities on the bases of their understanding of how children learn, others often use the Banking model of education.
Consider the following example:
Most teachers think that the best way to teach multiplication of numbers in class 3 is by asking one smart or obedient student from the class to recite the tables and the rest of the students repeat in succession:2 tens are = 20 'loudly' in unison. The students are expected to yell out the multiplication facts again and again without really understanding the concept of multiplication i.e. the sum of 2 ten times would yield 20.
At the primary school level, teaching should majorly focus on conceptual learning and not just the accumulation of facts. Paulo Freire a South American educationist who coined the term Banking Model specified that the learner in this model constantly adds facts and retrieves them from memory, somewhat like a bank where things are stored. It is as if the information is to be shifted from the book to the brain and again from the brain to the answer paper during examination.
Unfortunately, the teachers deposit knowledge into the brain-bank of the students which may or may not be withdrawn when needed due to forgetting. At the primary school level as the concepts are much easier this method works quite effectively. As the mathematical concepts become more complex and the students are expected to memorise proofs of theorems in geometry students find it extremely difficult to apply what has been learnt. Thus, students good at this system are those who have a good memory.
There is a second approach that teachers observe other than the banking model when teaching maths.
Consider the following example:
The teacher asks the students of Class 2 to add a three-digit number to another three-digit number say add 295 to 187. To make it easier for the students to understand she asks them to first write the digits according to their place value ie by making three columns. On the top of each of these columns, she asks them to write hundreds, tens and ones and further direct them to write numbers one below the other keeping in mind that the hundreds are written in the 'hundreds' place, the tens in the 'tens' place and the ones in the 'ones' place. Now she asks them to add the numbers in the ones' column first and then carry over if needed, then add the second column and add the rest of the columns and find the carry over each time
By following a clear procedure like the one above the teacher ensures that the students are not making mistakes. She believes that with the proper practice for several times the students can achieve mastery over this method and will arrive at a correct answer.
In this model of learning the learner is subsequently using a sequence of programmes to be remembered and followed. All it requires is to spend some more time on the same programme doing similar problems. This is known as the programming model which much like the banking model.
Both these models do not contemplate about the child’s mind, as having the ability to create ideas and make new relationships between concepts. These models are unable to tap a child’s ability to comprehend, plan and construct information in innovative ways. These models are not student-centred and do not allow critical thinking.
A very important question for most of the teachers is to ponder how my classroom functions?
When a teacher has finished her lesson she needs to reflect on how many of the students have understood the concepts?
Is there a better way of teaching?
The answer to the above question is yes! The third approach to learning is one of the best methods of teaching. This method believes that a child’s errors tell us about how the child thinks and realises that mistakes are often evidence of an active mind.
Consider the following example
When introducing triangles and their properties to the students of Class 4 maths the teacher uses a teaching aid. He cuts out triangles and other shapes of different kinds from the chart paper and lets the children play with these cuttings. At the same time, he instructs them to explore what a triangle is, whether they have seen them in their real life, what are some of their properties and whether they differ from the other shapes.
In the next class, he leads them from concrete to abstract notion with pictures of all types of triangles. he tries to involve the whole class allowing them to discuss their understanding with each other and
This approach to learning that regards the learner as an active agent making sense of the physical and social environment is called the constructivist model. The child here builds on his understanding based on the interaction with the world and from real-life examples.
This model provokes the child to think harder and all the different aspects with the help of scaffolding, thus providing ample opportunities to learn and enough support when the child struggles on his own. It focusses on the ability of the child to utilise her skills, think, attempt and answer to new problems and questions.
When teachers resort to this method of teaching in their classrooms at the primary school level maths will no longer become a phobia to higher secondary school students. The aim of teaching math must focus on building confidence, having fun, a love for numbers and application of theory into practice.