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Monday, 12 November 2012

Making Math Fun!

- Aparna Bhasin 

Aparna is the Program Manager of the Learn, Out of the Box Program.

I recently sat in on a 7th standard Math class at a school in Chembur, Mumbai. The chapter being covered was Simple Interest. The teacher had been through the contents of the WebBox and decided to use one of the role-play ideas. She, of course, had to adapt the activity slightly to meet the specific needs of her set of students.

The students were split into 3 groups, each group representing a different bank. They had prepared for the role-play the day before, with students assigned to different roles – bank managers, clerks, cashiers, and of course customers. Each of the three banks offered a different interest rate, and the customers were to simulate the real-life experience of walking into a bank.

Each customer was given a scenario with a principal amount and time period. The cashiers then had to calculate the interest using the formula learnt in class, and the customers were able to withdraw money.


The students were very excited by the role-play and even the non-participants were playing close attention. In addition to application of a mathematical concept, the role-play forced the students to rehearse and speak in English, as this is something they struggle with in the semi-English school setting.

Role-Play & Learning

The WebBox has a mixture of audio-visual stimuli for students in the classroom, and activity ideas for the teacher, such as the simple interest role-play described above. Initially many teachers are hesitant to use the role-plays within the classroom, largely due to the time-constraints they face both in planning and teaching, and the resource-constraints of their classrooms. However, teachers who do use these teaching strategies find they add significant value to the classroom.

Some of the benefits of role-playing as a teaching and learning tool include:
  • Motivating and engaging students in the classroom as it often feels more like play than work.  Students become an active part of the classroom experience, rather than passive observers (Poorman, 2002).
  • Allowing students to apply concepts to the real world, developing an understanding not only of the concept itself but also its importance in their daily life.
  • Enabling students to utilize skills that are often used separately (quantitative and communication skills) simultaneously (Bair, 2000).
  • Bringing a human element to subjects like math and science, which some students often feel removed from (Dallman-Jones, 1994).

References

Bair, E. S. (2000). Developing analytical and communication skills in a mock-trial course based on the famous Woburn, Massachusetts case. Journal of Geoscience Education, 48 (4), 450-454.

Dallmann-Jones, A. S. (1994). The Expert Educator: A Reference Manual for Teaching Strategies for Quality Education, Three Blue Herons Publishing, Inc., Fond du Lac, WI.

Poorman, P. B. (2002). Biography and role-playing:fostering empathy in abnormal
psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 29(1), 32-36.