Project Maths cannot hurt you and being good at maths is not about how many maths questions you get right – it’s about what you do when you don’t know the answer.
Project maths terrifies many parents because we all did maths in school and yet, now our kids are in secondary, we haven’t a bull’s notion of how to help them. Let’s face it, most of us had a bit of a speed wobble when we realised that the kids no longer ‘borrow 1, pay back 1’ when doing subtraction. Now we have to deal with PROJECT MATHS. Even the name is daunting.
It has not replaced maths as we knew it. Project Maths is simply a new approach to maths that is designed to equip students with skills that will be useful later in life. It is actually an excellent concept. The objective is to equip our kids with the skills needed the need as adults when faced with problems to solve. Put simply Project Maths is teaching kids to understand that in life there is more than one way to skin a cat and that maths can be used as a tool to solve problems.
But like many great ideas, the hardest part is getting it from concept to implementation. In my opinion, based on working with both primary & secondary students, the difficulty that arises with project maths is the disconnect between maths in 5th and 6th class and maths in 1st and 2nd year. In primary school, the emphasis tends to be on mental maths, learning tables by rote and learning HOW to do their maths. And most of the time it’s about getting the right answer in a fixed way.
With project maths, the emphasis is on understanding WHY they are answering a question in a particular way and being able to reason it out. There can often be more than one way to answer a maths question. Don’t believe me? Well, we now know that there is more than one way to do subtraction! And don’t even get me started on the Japanese method for long multiplication.
While it was partly developed to address a worrying drop in maths proficiency nationally, Project maths is not just about improved maths exam results. It is also about teaching lifelong skills such as thinking skills and understanding. It’s about using problem-solving strategies coupled with maths knowledge to find solutions. Instead of firing off answers in a formulaic way students are often faced with unfamiliar questions and must think for themselves to solve complex problems in innovative ways.
I think this makes maths a very relevant subject for life. It prepares students for third-level education where they will have to take more ownership for their learning.
In my opinion, there is a massive gap between primary & secondary maths and this needs to be addressed. I see kids expected to rattle off answers in maths, without pausing to consider their answer. Those children, the thinkers, the ones with a high convincer strategy going, the perfectionists, they think that they are crap at maths unless they can answer a question immediately. The kids who can learn by rote get rewarded. The ones who can rattle off their tables are deemed to be good at maths. Dig deeper & often times they may not be able to explain their thinking as to why the answer is what it is.
You know how I feel about workbooks. (Not sure of my feelings on that – read here to find out more.) In particular, I hate maths workbooks. There is nowhere to show your thought pattern. I prefer a maths copy with a rough work column. It allows for thought expansion.
Project maths is scary for us parents because it is different to the way in which we were taught maths. Different – that’s all. Its objective is to make us a nation of people who consider options, who problem solve, who innovate.
And that makes Project Maths a very, very good thing for us all.