An approach to mathematics teaching and child development

Enjoying mathematics: enjoyment significantly contributes to further learning

Experience speaks clearly: the most effective motivation derives from a child’s feeling of success, from their genuine joy of having solved an appropriately demanding task. It lies in the pleasure they gain from their sense of progress, or in the praise and respect they receive from others. Children who have this motivation do not experience the “mathematics paralysis” that has become legendary in traditional education. On the contrary, when they see a formula, they do not react with displeasure but with enthusiasm: I know this, I can solve this!

The power of internal motivation

 

We know from everyday experience that children with prevalent internal motivation are more independent thinkers and decision-makers than those with predominantly external motivation. The joy of thinking originates in personal discoveries. The mathematical environments in our textbooks are designed to facilitate discovery. Different environments ensure the success of different types of children.

The complexity level of the mathematical problems presented is set so that even less able pupils can experience the joy of success. These pupils are assigned problems whose difficulty level is appropriate for their skills.  The word appropriate is extremely important here: the problem has to be easy enough for the pupil to solve it, but challenging enough that the pupil has to make an effort, and will experience joy when they have tackled it. This feeling then becomes the engine for further work and triggers the motivation to solve new problems and to work intellectually.  

Plants do not grow when pulled either

When knowledge is presented to, or even forced upon, a pupil -- who is expected to reproduce and imitate the knowledge they receive, and is denied the process of gaining their own experience -- such a pupil will be unwilling, or even unable, to acquire further knowledge using their own resources.   

 

Such pupils will collect theorems and formulae and will become “intellectual parasites” (as expressed by Russian psychologist A. M. Matyushchin). Their autonomy and need to learn, which are the essence of motivation, are actually suppressed. It is impossible to speed up a child’s learning process by giving them ready-made knowledge, just as plants do not grow faster if we pull at them every morning.

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