Monday, 23 April 2018

How do we get students excited and curious about mathematics?

When students are curious they are more likely to be engaged. But why? What, is curiosity and how does it work? A study published in the journal Neuron suggests that the brain's chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information

In their study Grubner and Ranganath(2014) explored how curiosity influences memory. They found that states of high curiosity enhance both the learning of interesting information, and also the more boring stuff.  Applying this to the classroom maybe we could interpret this as  "students will learn more about topics they are curious about"
The authors of the study also discussed how much of what a person experiences in a day is forgotten.  This made me wonder, how much of what happens during an average school day do our students remember? 

How do we get students excited and curious about mathematics?

Do we uncover the magic?
Eddie Woo, Mathematics teacher and youtube star says "It is magic until you understand it and then it is mathematics" 

Multiplying by drawing lines - an ancient mayan method appears to be magic until you find out Why it works

Do we create an element of surprise?
These curated tasks for  primary and secondary aim to do that. they were Featured in an article from nrich's recent news titled from WOW to Why.

Do we use  hooks?
A hook could be a real-world example, an interesting problem, or a novel way of looking at a familiar situation. Middle-school math teacher Michael Giardi was featured in ASCD's weekly news. He uses hooks and prompts at the beginning of class to engage students. In this blog post, he describes how this approach promotes productive struggle and gets students thinking like mathematicians.

Do we build on the successes of others?. 
This recent ERO publication: Teaching approaches and strategies that work - keeping children engaged and achieving in  mathematics highlights approaches used by schools that focused on improving outcomes for students in mathematics in years 5-8.

Gruber, M. J., Gelman, B, & Ranganath, C. (2014) States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit. Neuron, 84(2), 486-496. .

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