I lagged behind at school. It was excruciating; teachers would single me out to solve problems that I knew everyone but me could solve. I later asked myself: if the teacher knew I couldn’t solve the problem, why did they put me on the spot? Why wasn’t the time devoted to practice and mastery? When did math become a public demonstration that a student passes or fails? Why did I have to sit through lessons that I wasn’t ready to learn?
The most challenging aspect of teaching students in groups is ensuring that they are all progressing in line with their grade’s learning objectives. As experienced educators, we know that students don’t enter the classroom on an equal footing, and that falling behind in subjects can have long-term implications. According to a study conducted in 2012 by the national testing group, ACT Inc., Getting Students on Track to College and Career Readiness: How Many Catch Up from Far Behind, “students who have fallen far behind academically in 4th and 8th grade have a less than 1 in 3 chance of being ready for college or a career by the end of high school.”
Subjects that require a good foundational knowledge (where skills need to be learnt in a particular order) are linked with a degree of phobia. Nwoke and Owerri (2016) investigated this in their study published in Research on Humanities and Social Sciences titled ‘Causes and Solutions of Mathematics Phobia Among Secondary School Students.’ They asked mathematics educators to determine both the cause and solution of mathematics phobia, and found that teachers mostly mentioned curriculum. Teachers cited the “method of teaching” as the cause of phobia among students and said that the solution was to revise the “use of instructional materials in teaching mathematics”.
In looking at the results of their study, Nwoke and Owerri found their “results are in consonance with the findings of Olaniyan et al. (2005) and Gbolagade et al. (2013), which revealed factors responsible for mathematics phobia and showed statistical influence of the factors on students’ mathematics achievement.” The question we need to ask ourselves as educators is: if we know that our students’ perception that they are not good at mathematics is the reason for their phobia and subsequent hesitation, how do we alter our method of teaching to help them overcome this perception?
Mastery and Blended Learning
Blended learning offers the student the opportunity to develop at their own pace, eventually meeting the standards required of a high-school graduate. Using the current teaching methods, many students are left to flounder year after year just because the educational system was not designed to assist those who have been left behind. This problem is most often seen in subjects that require students to master skills cumulatively, such as mathematics. There is no value in trying to learn advanced concepts, such as calculus, when the basic operations have not been mastered.
I started to love math when I discovered I could study it at my own pace. Through online study, I became aware that I simply need a safe environment and lots and lots of practice to learn. I was never ‘bad’ at math; I just never had the opportunity to learn it in a way that met my needs. Many learners have similar situations and could hugely benefit by having teachers use blended learning solutions, like ONEder Academy. ONEder Academy provides first-class, online content, supported by a range of accommodations, all of which are tied to Universal Design for Learning principles!