For many people, math isn't just a "boring" subject -- it actually gives them anxiety. A person's "mathphobia" stems from a fear that they can't even do simple math-related tasks well, like balancing a checkbook or calculating a tip. Often, this fear starts from a childhood, when math concepts aren't taught in a way that allows students to fully understand them. Math isn't just hard for some people; the very concepts of it seem alien and impenetrable.
To combat this, Victoria College's Mathematics Associate Professor, Melanie Yosko, is introducing a new approach to teaching: light-hearted humor.
Make them laugh
Yosko's techniques aim to tackle that anxiety about math. In her lessons, she doesn't like to simply talk at her students -- she encourages them to have discussions with her, and have fun with math. Yosko asks students to list any negative feelings or experiences about math up-front, and visualize the future they'd like to have with math.
This open-forum style of teaching encourages students to crack jokes about the lessons they're learning. Openness makes math seem more relatable, and allows students to feel comfortable and alleviate their anxiety about the subject.
According to Yosko, poor math scores are often not a result of lack of intelligence. Rather, it's a lack of preparation and commitment on the teachers' part. As such, Yosko requires both students and her teaching staff to sign a pledge of commitment to math at the beginning of each semester. She uses this to increase students' motivation, by making it clear what the ultimate goals are.
This helps make the math concepts feel more "real" and clear. If students do experience anxiety, that fear is acknowledged, and they are given resourses to cope with it. Incorporating these resources and the dedication into an interactive classroom helps keep students motivated, and ultimately makes math fun.
Yosko's methods have shown that combining humor, fun, and student-driven participation in math classes creates positive results. The Learning Success System similarly strives to make learning interactive, accessible, and most of all -- fun!
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