What can you do to increase interest in and student success with mathematics? Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, (SIAM), surveyed more that 400 math teachers across the United States to gather their feedback on how they teach and learn mathematics.
Michelle Montgomery, SIAM’s project director for MathWorks Math Modeling(M3), said that “Students can be successful in math classes if they put in enough effort, attitude, and behavior.” As noted by Domyhomework123, using mathematical modeling in solving real open-ended problems is a great method for students to use their quantitative skills to get started. All the teachers who were interviewed were coaches of student teams that took part in M3 Challenge. The competition is online and there are no registration fees nor participation fees. Senior high school students and junior high school students spent a weekend working together on a real-world problem via mathematical modeling. The problem is available for download to students. They have just 14 hours to solve it. This adds pressure. The 13th annual contest was held in 2018.
WHAT DO TEACHERS RECOMMEND?
1. Build confidence. More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) identified lack confidence as one of the main problems that prevent their students from excelling in mathematics.
2. Encourage curiosity and asking questions. Sixty-six% agreed that the best advice they could offer students who want to excel in math was to not only pay attention, but to also ask for clarification if necessary.
3. Emphasize conceptual understanding over procedure. 75% of respondents (75%), said it was important to learn how to apply math concepts, not just memorize formulas.
4. Inspire students to learn math by creating authentic problems. Sixty three percent of participants stated that it was crucial for students to be motivated and take initiative in learning math. A majority (80%) of participants said that students are more involved in solving real-world mathematics problems than they were in math.
5. Encourage positive attitudes about math. Teachers should encourage parents to refrain from making negative comments regarding math, and to not say it’s difficult or irrelevant (74%). Instead, teachers should encourage children and guide them to find mentors in math if they have problems (71%).
It’s no surprise that teaching math modeling is an integral part of facilitation. The facilitation process allows students to model and solve real-world problems. Lauren Tabolinsky, a MathWorks academic programme manager, said that MathWorks sponsors M3 Challenge as it makes math relevant for both students and professionals.
Montgomery of SIAM believes modeling is integral to SIAM’s work. This includes motivation, identification of and control of variables that impact the issue (no feed data or approaches), gut checking of answers, and justifying proposed solutions. The results? It was a mixture of enthusiasm and an interest in solving a problem. The key ingredient is understanding that you can use your math skills to gain insight on the issues facing the world today.
One example: The 2018 M3 Challenge challenge titled “Better eaten than never: Reducing the waste food.” This problem was recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. An estimated one-third to three quarters of all food worldwide is wasted each year.
Mathematics was used by students to predict whether food insecurity would be met by food waste. Based on their personal characteristics and lifestyles, teams created a mathematical model to calculate a household’s annual food waste. They were presented with four types.
Finally, teams were asked for ideas on how to repurpose food leftovers. They used mathematical modeling to evaluate the benefits and costs of their options.
Students can choose how they approach these problems and how they will test them. They also have the option to decide what tools they will use for communicating their findings. Each member of the team has a role, there is plenty to do. You will be able to see how math modeling competitions can help students increase their mathematical skills, confidence, and passion when you compare the M3 Challenge modeling task with the guidance provided by the teacher coaches.