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Sharpened for Success: The Carefully Calculated Hands-on Approach

Throughout this series, our readers will be learning about the ever-changing teaching styles in different subjects. We have gathered a few teachers for each review, and each article will highlight a specific subject and the way teachers see fit to teach it. To start this series we will bring up the most controversial subject, mathematics. 

Math is one of those subjects where you either hate it or love it. In Bedford, opinions differ greatly for math, and we have decided to get to the bottom of it. To start by confronting the issue, many students believe they are “not actually being taught.”

Mr. Bourdeau, a teacher in the math department claims: “Sometimes in my classroom, I don’t teach you a thing, but instead I set up an activity that makes you learn the material on your own. By learning the material on your own and struggling through [it], I have found that students actually remember how to do things a lot more than if I stand in front of the room and teach them. I think about it like this: if I stood up in front of the room and showed one… how to ride a bicycle by riding the bicycle myself, and in a different class I gave everyone a bicycle and said ‘ride it’, who do you think would learn how to ride a bicycle better?” 

Mr. Bourdeu’s reliant interactive learning options include whiteboard problems and going through a slideshow of example math problems. This form of teaching helps him understand his student’s way of thinking and the gaps in their understanding to better his methods. When everyone is on the same page, everyone understands each aspect of the problems and lessons.

He explains that interactive learning is the best-case scenario. Just like working with your hands in an art class or trying a lab on your own in science class, in math, you connect pathways in your brain allowing you to figure out the same situation on a test or in future complex lessons. You must first start with the basics, you must learn the fundamentals and excel from there. If you cannot learn the fundamentals and build your base, you cannot improve your skills. Of course, he has an excellent point. Math is a difficult subject to teach and teaching must have a specific approach or the students cannot learn properly.  

Mr. Bourdeau further mentions his preference towards interactive learning but again, says “…if students cannot handle these freedoms, then interactive learning turns into classroom disruptions. Unfortunately, sometimes standard learning is the best way to control behaviors.” Overall it all ties back to the students themselves and their cooperation to be taught and to work properly during class. He mentions age as well and how that affects students’ homework ethic and their want to learn. Younger grades are more rambunctious and often need extra structure in order to get an equal amount of work done. For instance, they might have to teach differently in order to equalize the expectations. 

Everyone must contribute their best and work together. The teachers must inspire the students to learn, and the students must try to learn in response. Each of them must set “clear expectations.” If the students do the work and express questions, the teacher can evaluate and see where the class is at, what they have to go back to, and what they can move on from. By practicing problem-solving on your own and in a group, you can figure out on your own and understand why and how the answer turned out that way.  

What do you think? Should teaching methods be more independent for students when they prove they can handle it? Should teachers revert to standard methods for note-taking, and textbook math problems? Should it be both? Overall, we believe that it should be a combination. If the teacher explains when students are stuck or asks questions and allows interactive learning, it teaches the students to ask for help as well as be able to problem solve on their own. This combination creates a balance that builds confidence in academics and sets them up for future success.