Maths skits that teach!
Whilst at a numeracy workshop at Holy Cross Glenwood, one of the math specialist teachers, Lisa Clements, presented a fantastic video that they use to show the value of mathematics to their students. Some readers will recognise this short skit as one from Ma and Pa Kettle (1949)!
Depicted within trying to disprove that 25 divided by 5 = 14 is the salient point that unless you can give hands-on examples as to how the mathematics works, a learner will consolidate their misunderstandings if not given shown concrete evidence that contradicts their understandings. This got us thinking, what other movies also highlight the importance of numeracy?
The following clip from Blackadder (1986) shows that even whilst using hands-on materials a student just may not follow what you are trying to convey. Students with preconceived ideas of how mathematics operates, just like Baldrick in this skit, will try hard to give you that an answer they think fits... which means you need to re-frame your question to find the root cause of the confusion...
With the above confusion, perhaps re-formulating the question or instead bringing in new hands-on materials for teaching mathematics and more supportive analogies would have helped Blackadder!
One of the issues when teaching mathematics is introducing too many integers too quickly... it simply confuses people. When confusion reigns, mistakes set in... as well highlighted by this clip from Abbott & Costello (1952 - 57):
In the above clip, it was clear that visualization of what was happening with the 50 cents was lacking. Still, whilst teaching kids to visualize the problem helps some of the issues experienced in class, they also need to be express their thinking in clear steps and learn to write down these steps and track the numbers as they progress through the problem. This was clearly an issue for Bart Simpson in Season 1 of the Simpsons as well...
The good news is that there are so many teaching strategies for mathematics; card games, dice, number lines, puzzles and more. Work with your specialist mathematics teachers in your school and formulate different lessons that fit needs of your learners. Going beyond this, you can also find a myriad of videos and songs that can be used as a hook for teaching kids mathematics.
You can even make pop quizzes a source of humor, or at the very least different... enter Jack Black in the movie School of Rock!
No matter how you go about it, it comes down to that the process of mathematics is far more important than the right answer. As educators, it's our job to teach kids to work mathematically so that you can see how they are formulating the answers you see on a given question. After all, it is in the conversations you have with your students that you'll find where you can truly make a difference.
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