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Preparing Students for High School Mathematics – A High School Maths Teacher’s Wish List
Over many years of my career as a high school math teacher, I have heard many older teachers complain that elementary teachers did not prepare their students well to study math in high school. They complained about the differing standards of math that students from the different primary schools feeding into their high school had. So, in my role as head of a high school math department, I decided to present a workshop for elementary school teachers to explain what my teachers and I would like to see in our new students. You might call it a “high school math teacher’s wish list.”
Below is that wishlist:
• Develop a work ethic as part of normal Class I culture. e. students get to work immediately. (Time is a big issue in high school where, especially in high school, the work required to be covered for school accreditation purposes is mandated and checked annually)
• Develop a homework ethic where homework is prepared in the evening and checked daily. (In most primary schools, homework is set on a weekly basis. In secondary core subjects, it is most often daily or set several times a week).
• Develop a study ethic. Homework = not studying. (Study should consolidate the basics of the material the student needs to know to be successful and the areas the student finds difficult).
• Develop the belief that all students can do math. Debug the myth that math is hard. (It is important to teach your students to view all math problems as easy. This will at least encourage them to attempt the problem).
• Develop an understanding that mathematics is an essential part of life and that we make mathematical decisions every day without realizing it.
• Instill in students the belief that asking questions is a “cool” thing to do.
• Instill in students the belief that math is not a boy’s thing, but is gender neutral.
• Give students a taste of the high school type lesson.
o Chalk and conversation lessons;
o Formal exams
o Exercises from the textbook.
In addition to teaching the content of their curriculum, I would like elementary school teachers to introduce their students to these ideas below if it is not part of their teaching regimen. Most of these ideas are designed to improve math outcomes for all students. They reduce errors, decrease the time spent on individual exercises, increase work efficiency and give better exam results. Thus, they create happier students who will see mathematics as a discipline in which they can be more successful.
These ideas (with some explanation) include:
• order agreement; (The student often misunderstands some when he arrives at high school. He often uses the BOMDAS or BODMAS method).
• Examination technique; (This leads to less fear of the exam; more questions asked and better results).
• A control procedure; (This will reduce careless errors and build confidence).
• How to solve problems; approach exercises in unfamiliar and practical situations/contexts; (Problem-solving strategies will reduce the fear of these problems. Teachers should often model these strategies for their students.)
• Estimation as a form of verification; (This should be done at the beginning of the solution and used to verify that the answer is what was expected).
• An implantation procedure; (This allows the student to communicate their solution mathematically while facilitating verification as the student solves the problem).
• That giving an answer is not enough. They must explain in written mathematical language how they arrived at the answer.
• That there is often more than one way to solve a problem.
• Estimation is an “integral part” of real-world problem solving.
• Teach them to work down the page rather than across the page. (This allows the eye to easily check as the eye flicks down rather than up the page over many symbols that might confuse the eye).
This “wish list” could be a “Pie in the Sky” wish. But it is worth expressing the ideas it contains.
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