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Teaching mathematics and science in elementary level is a challenging task because of the negative attitude students have. Teachers must then be very careful when teaching this subject and ensure that they encourage students in the subject (Muschala J, Muschala G & Muschala E, 2010). They must ensure that they use all the techniques available to encourage students and make them believe that mathematics is not is not hard. Mathematics and science are the driving subjects in most areas of the real life situations thus it is essential for students to understand them.
Due to the importance of mathematics and science, several standards have been put forward to guide teachers. Such are formulated by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and National Science Education Standards (NSES). The standards are aimed at helping teachers to apply the best teaching methods and aid them in encouraging students to like the subjects. The first standard states that the education system should be structured in a manner that encourages effective teaching and learning (Ediger 2003). This means that all that teachers require in teaching should be availed to them. Another standard states that attitude and the learning of the students is highly dictated by the teaching methods applied by their teachers (Westaway 2007). Teachers must therefore have the ability to interact with students well and be selective in the teaching methods since this determines the understanding of the students. The third standard provides that the efficiency of teachers is dictated by the beliefs and attitude a teacher has on science subjects. It is therefore important for teachers to have the right attitude since this will impact well on the learning of the students.
The fourth standard provides that the process of learning is both social and individual process and students should be encouraged to solve real life situations in groups or individually. The other standard is that teachers must understand the various backgrounds and their understanding abilities and keep them in mind when teaching. The teacher must try to satisfy the special needs of the students and treat them accordingly. But above all, students must be encouraged that all are capable of understanding mathematics and science (Westaway 2007).
UNIT OF STUDY FOR FRACTIONS, DECIMALS AND PERCENTS
In this paper is a proposed unit of study in the subject of mathematics, involving fractions, decimals and percents. The goals and objectives of this study unit is to ensure that the unit is taught effectively with the right material. The other goal or objective is to ensure that the teaching methods applied by the teacher serves to motivate the students to understand and learn mathematics. Another objective is to ensure that the teacher has a positive attitude towards what he is teaching because this will influence the students positively. It is also an objective of this unit to encourage students learn as a group as well as to put individual efforts in understanding the concepts of mathematics. The last goal and objective is to ensure that teachers understand the diversity of background and difference in understanding capacities of students and treat them accordingly.
The materials and resources needed in this unit are divided into three categories which are enactive, symbolic and iconic (Ediger 2003). Enactive materials are the tangible resources that give students a hands on experience in learning. The iconic materials are the audio visual aids that help the students by hearing and seeing. The symbolic materials are the textbooks and other printed material that explains the concepts to the students. In this unit, the teacher requires relevant textbooks which must be certified by the relevant authorities. Other resources like written cards, pieces of chalk, blackboard, short film, physical objects like mangoes and any other relevant material according to the class of the students. The cards must be written in different colors and the physical objects must also be of different colors to make learning interesting for the students.
The teacher must issue instructions to students in a language understandable to them and putting into consideration the diverse needs of the students. The instructions must be issued in a sequence and accompanied by the right materials and resources (Ediger 2003). The first stage in issue of the instructions must be by use of the physical objects to introduce the idea to the students. For example, the students might be asked to take oranges from a given number of oranges in a basket, say ten, and asked how many are remaining. They can also be asked to count the number of red balls and the number of white balls and express them in relation to the total number of balls present. At this stage, the teacher must ensure that all the students participate fully and are attentive enough. The teacher must make this as interesting as possible by making fun and involving the students in physical engagements.
The other stage must be through the use of pictures or other iconic materials like short films and illustrations. The teacher should also engage the students full by asking them questions and requiring them to answer. For example, the teacher might hold a card with three boxes in it, two of which are shaded red. The teacher might then ask the students to count the total number of boxes and the number of boxes shaded red. They should then be helped to express the number of red boxes in relation to the total number. Other iconic materials should be used the same way and in an interesting manner. After use of the iconic materials the teacher must then use the symbolic materials which is application of what the students have learnt to the what is written in text books. The teacher should guide the students in reading the texts, relating the content to what they have done in the previous steps and then understanding the concepts. In all the steps, the teacher must aid the students to relate what they have learnt to real life situations and even require students to come up with more examples.
The teacher should often ask the students whether they understand the concepts and even assess for himself at every stage. He should regularly ask the students whether they have difficulties in their understanding and attend to the difficulties adequately (Ediger 2003). Only after all the difficulties are solved should the teacher continue to the next step. Students should be fully involved and the teacher must use wise methods of discerning difficulties in understanding since students may shy off from telling them.
The twelve science processes should be incorporated fully in teaching this unit. These processes include making observations, inferring, taking measurements, communicating, putting things into categories and making predictions. These should be used fully in that the teacher should let the students learn through the processes (Westaway 2007). When a teacher puts up a printed card for the students to see, he must guide them into making the right observations, understanding or inferring, communicating to the others and classifying the problem. This will enhance participation and understanding of the students.
According to Muschala J, Muschala G & Muschala E (2010) manipulatives are the teaching aids that help students to create a model of concepts and identify relationships in the models. These should be used since the trigger the imagination of the students and help them to grasp the whole mathematical concepts. The teacher should assess the understanding of the students at every stage and ensure that they understand. The assessments should me formulated in a way to encourage the students and not to discourage them. They should be challenging but at the same time not too difficult. The teacher must walk the tight rope in balancing the degree of difficulty (Muschala J, Muschala G & Muschala E, 2010). The assessment must be sequential starting with the simple problems going to the challenging ones and not vice versa.
At the end of the unit, the teacher should seek response from the students on how they found the subject (Ediger 2003). The teacher should enquire from them on new ways to apply what they have learnt in real life situations. This will be an encouragement to the students and will prepare them for the next unit. It is clear that even if students think that mathematics is hard, employing the right teaching techniques and the right mathematics language can help to make them like the subject.