In this TedTalk, Dan Meyers gives his reasons for why he insists that the math curriculum needs updating. Meyers makes a lot of good points and seems to really know what he is talking about. I think his students are lucky to have him as teacher and I hope that there are more educators like him out there. Meyers believes that the way we teach math in the U.S. assumes that the students will remember it. Clearly that is not the case, as our math scores compared to other countries around the world are drastically low.
Meyers gave 5 points about why the way we teach math is hurting our students:
1. Lack of initiative
2. Lack of perseverance
3. Lack of retention
4. Aversion to world problems
5. Eagerness for formula
Meyers talked about how the way our math textbooks are set up are functionally equivalent to turning on Two and a Half Men and calling it a day. No problem worth solving is that simple. A student could read the entire textbook and think they learned math, when in reality they just learned how to decode the book. The way the text is setup is not practical for real life application. I completely agree with him on this. The problems in math textbooks are usually completely irrelevant to our lives. How are we supposed to find an interest and connect to something that has no impact on our life?
Meyers really tries to instill in students a belief that math makes sense of the world. To get them to believe that, he turns textbook problems into real world applications. Meyers said that “math serves the conversation. Conversation doesn’t serve the math.” He has students that feel intimidated by mathematical equations and will never join in on a conversation for the fear of misunderstanding. When Meyers turns the problems into real life activities, he gets students talking that never spoke up before. Using various forms of multimedia, he was able to turn a textbook problem about how much water it takes to fill up a tank, into actually having students watch a water tank get filled. He took away all the sub-steps that the textbook asked, and asked the simple question of “what matters here?” The funny thing Meyers pointed out was the fear of checking whether the tank filled up with the same amount of water that the answer key had listed in the back of the book. Did the practical add up to the answer key? I think this is a brilliant way of teaching students, because if they can see a problem come to life, then they will be able to make some sort of connection to it. If only there were ways to do this for every textbook problem!
By explaining math in ways like this, he found his students were no longer averse to world problems. Meyers suggests to use multimedia, ask the shortest question you can, let the students build the problem, and be less helpful. The textbook is helping us as teachers in all the wrong ways.
Meyers said that with our technologically advanced world, we have the tools to create a higher curriculum and he believes that people are hungry for this! With teachers like Dan Meyers, we should all insist on a better math curriculum.