Dr. Nkechi Fluker is a director and educator in the virtual learning environment in the United States. She also does work as a content writer/subject matter expert, author, and educational consultant for educators and parents. She has worked within the educational field for 15 years, with 11 years as a middle school math teacher along with being a student teacher mentor, curriculum development specialist, and more. Nkechi believes in using students’ learning styles, creativity, and problem-solving strategies to help students become successful in math and learning in general. She also understands the challenges teachers and parents face in the classroom and homeschool learning environments. Her foundational belief system and way of life have influenced her teaching methods and starting a virtual school in August 2021. She continues to support educators in the classroom and at home to have a purposeful learning experience.
Mathematics is often criticized and awarded as the “Scariest Subject of All Time”. Although it is widely known as an area students have the most difficulty with, it cannot be avoided. A student’s math performance is one of the most important aspects of their primary and secondary educational learning. Students should be able to display proficiency in basic math skills and apply it in various situations analytically. However, that is not always the case and unfortunately, it is excused. How so? Well, let us think back to the many times you may have heard “I am a reading teacher, so I do not worry about the math” or “I don’t do math”. Or maybe those responses are just echoed in the halls by professionals who are to be examples of having great knowledge, well at least on the basic level. Math is not simply about foundational operations like addition and subtraction. It is also a language. A language of numbers and symbols. It involves problem-solving skills. If students’ basic math skills and problem-solving skills are not proficient, then students will not be adequately functional in their academics and may not be able to pursue certain careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Basically, there is a purpose to learning mathematics and it has its place in our daily lives whether simple or complicated. When we deem math as too hard, we are saying that a person is unable to process it therefore they miss out on so many opportunities. I thought the stars were the limit…not our math abilities.
Mathematics is a content area that can be transferred into daily life situations because students learn how to think critically while reasoning and solving problems. Rather than voting for math off the island, how about we embrace it and examine effective ways to support students’ math understanding? To do this, we must address the needles in the road such as math anxiety, negative attitudes towards math, parental involvement, and student learning style. Several children develop negative feelings and higher levels of anxiety towards math that create a negative relationship with this content area, thus negatively impacting their academic achievement (Newstead, 1998). The reason behind this may pertain to their past experiences with math. For example, a student who has had continued difficulty with math may not enjoy the learning process. Math anxiety is a fear or extreme discomfort when confronted with math situations. This affects the brain and causes the student the inability to solve the problem. To develop students’ critical thinking skills and tackle the other issues at hand pertaining to mathematics, it is important for students to receive tools and strategies in conjunction with their math learning process.
Research has shown that students’ reading performance increased based on the effects of a technological program (Forster & Souvignier, 2011; McClanahan, Williams, Kennedy &Tate, 2012). This is the same for mathematics! When students have multiple forms to communicate within their learning, such as the use of computers, videos, music, etc., it allows them to be active participants in their learning. There have been various types of evidence that have shown that the use of computers aids in students’ improvement in comprehension in math and other content areas. In addition, Orabuchi (1992) investigated the effectiveness of interactive computer programs on the overall academic achievement in math and reading amongst students in first and second grade. The results suggested that computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is effective in teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and it was more effective in the improvement of the affective domains as opposed to the cognitive domains. Students had increased positive attitudes toward their experiences with computers and their view of their school experience (Orabuchi, 1992). So, it is not rocket science to say there is a way to support the fundamental importance of math development. We must ask ourselves, what is the best way to implement it?
Interactive technology tools not only support students’ math thinking skills, but also increases their self-efficacy, therefore reducing their anxiety, because the most effective online learning technology tools are interactive, scaffold the learning, and have functions to improve the child’s ability to reach their potential and perform higher level tasks (Woolfolk & Perry, 2012). Think about the times we are in…technology is the main tool of support. It can be highly effective when used properly to support student learning.
During my time as a middle school math teacher, creative methods were incorporated because I understood the dilemma. Creative tunes to remember math processes and steps to solving problems such as dividing fractions or subtracting integers. Also, flipped classrooms on some lesson topics were helpful because as a teacher, you can be able to see what your students already know or don’t know and what to spend most of your class time focusing on so that it is targeted instruction. If we already know that math is one of the most difficult subjects for our students, then let’s work together to help them overcome that obstacle and re-establish the importance of mathematics not only in the classroom but also in their daily lives.
- Förster N., Souvignier E. (2014). Learning progress assessment and goal setting: Effects on reading achievement, reading motivation and reading self-concept. Learning and Instruction, 32, 91–100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2014.02.002
- McClanahan, B., Williams, K., Kennedy, E., & Tate, S. (2012, May/June). A Breakthrough for Josh: How Use of an iPad Facilitated Reading Improvement. Techtrends: Linking Research And Practice To Improve Learning, 56(3), 20-28.
- Newstead, K. (1998). Aspects of Children’s Mathematics Anxiety. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 36, 53-71.https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1003177809664
- Orabuchi, I.I. (1992). Effects of using interactive CAI on primary grade students’ higher order thinking skills: Inference, generalizations, and math problem-solving. Denton, TX: Texas Women’s University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED390383)
- Woolfolk, A., & Perry, N. E. (2012). Child and adolescent development. Boston, MA: Pearson.