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Teachers’ capacity can make math enjoyable subject for students

Teachers’ capacity can make math enjoyable subject for students

Posted March. 16, 2015 07:20,   


The Education Ministry is set to transform mathematics that is considered the most difficult subject into an "enjoyable math." According to a general plan on mathematics education announced by the Education Ministry on Sunday, the ministry has decided to present minimum standards for students to study and exclude math contents that are excessively difficult from tests after making public announcement of revisions in education curricula in September this year. The measure is being taken with the aim of significantly changing math education, and therefore attention is focusing on what change it will bring about at classrooms.

Math is a difficult subject to most students, as evidenced by the term “math surrender (students who give up studying math).” According to a 2007 study, Korean students’ interest and self-confidence in math ranked 43rd of 50 countries worldwide. However, Korean students’ academic performance in math is high, as Korea ranked third to sixth in 2009 in the subject in international assessment of academic performance. This means that students are forced to study math even though they hate it.

When the new measure is introduced, classes will be conducted in a way that focuses on experience and exploration rather than problem solving, while teachers will evaluate students’ performance based more on process than answers to math problems. In process-focused evaluation, teacher will accord scores to students by examining the latter’s study process, achievement levels, and attitude. However, while the process-focused evaluation, among other advantages, can help ease students’ burden from problem solving and prior learning before the proceeding of curricula, it is susceptible to influence of the teacher’s subjectivity. The key to establishment of the new policy is trust in teachers and school. It is questionable whether teachers with the current level of capacity and qualifications can adequately embrace and digest the new system.

There has been debate between those for and those against introduction of engineering tools such as a calculator or computer software during math class or tests. The prevailing trend in advanced countries is for schools to allow the use of a calculator, but this measure can degrade students’ capacity to calculate, among other disadvantages, and therefore the key to this issue is how to dispel such concern.

Mathematician John von Neumann said, “In mathematics you don`t understand things. You just get used to them.” Math should be a tool to enhance students’ capacity in logical thinking, rather than an academic subject for students’ admission to school. In this light, it is a step in the right direction to reduce students’ excessive amount of study in math, and lower the level of difficulty. However, in order for Korea to ensure national competiveness, the country needs gifted students with highly advanced math skills. The country should continue to strengthen education of advanced mathematics by separating math for ordinary students and that for gifted ones.