Engagement is the first step to teaching and boredom destroys any authentic learning
Many of my students would say math is boring. Many of my clients have forgotten the math they’ve learned. So does that mean math is pointless? If you’re bored in class, it definitely feels like that. Of course it isn’t, math is everything. Math is a way for us to describe our world and gives us the ability to predict and problem solve efficiently. With innovation as the cornerstone of our economy, math is the future.
Why then are so many students not strong in the subject? There are advanced classes full of students and even college level math courses being taught in high school, but America is still lagging, although improving. In the latest Program for International Student Assessment report, from 2012, America is 35th out of 64 countries in math scores. That’s the middle of the pack, we’re no top 10.
We have been improving, which might be due to the increased use of technology to aid math instruction. We have also been adding math strategies in public schools to allow students different perspectives on math, in hopes that one will make sense and stick. But when it doesn’t make sense, students become frustrated. Frustration turns into lack of effort and desire which then becomes boredom, the chronic plague upon math.
When a child is bored in class, they essentially tune out. I remember plenty of meetings where I’ve been bored enough that I don’t remember anything the next day. The real problem arises in the consistent boredom. Math builds upon itself and when you miss a lesson, the rest won’t make sense either. It’s a vicious cycle. Boredom results in tuning out, tuning out results in not understanding, and now we’re back to what led to the boredom in the first place. Students who are bored in class don’t realize the long-term consequence until the day of the test or even worse at the end of the quarter when grades arrive and they’ve failed. The failure results in a belief that they’re not good at math. When in reality, they might have just missed something or confused about what the teacher was trying to convey that first time they got lost. All students want to do well in something they believe they can. Students lose the ability to do math when they lose the belief they can do well in math. For most, difficulty in math isn’t an inability to do math, it’s a symptom of boredom which resulted from a moment of confusion that was never clarified.