Motivational maths for real-life

It has always been our belief that if students can see the real-life application of maths, they will understand how these essential skills will benefit them. Hard-to-reach students, in particular, will only be truly motivated when they, either consciously or subconsciously, understand how they are going to benefit from what you are teaching them. What is in it for them? Whatever it is – make sure they know it. You should also consider the goals of your teaching?

  • To finish a scheme of work?
  • To pass a test?
  • To master algebra or some other specific skill?

Aren’t these more of a means to end?

What is the ultimate goal of teaching maths?

For me, one of the primary reasons is to give our students the skills they will need to live independently in an increasingly complex world. This will involve dealing with taxes, bank accounts, credit cards, budgeting and shopping. Being able to handle money wisely is an essential life skill.

All of this requires a sound understanding of parts, proportions and percent. And what about using maths to enable students to understand our world. Maths skills are needed here too. Whatever your ultimate goals, the important message is to keep them in mind. Connecting your subgoals to your ultimate goal will enable you to relate maths to real-life and ensure that your students are functional in maths.

Giving your learners the chance to apply their skills to a range of topics relevant to life and work will boost their confidence and their motivation. Creating problem-solving tasks that require pupils to think for themselves will encourage independence and foster transferability of skills. Being functional in maths means that students need to be able to make sense of situations and represent them, they must process and use maths and interpret and communicate their results.

You’ll find that all of Axis Education’s published maths resources help teachers build and apply Functional Maths skills (and for teachers north of the border – they are a perfect fit with the Curriculum for Excellence). Our latest Money management series is a case in point. We found that even those students who were achieving academically just didn’t have the taken-for-granted life skills needed to handle money efficiently. You can see our response for yourself - download free samples.

But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Yes, Functional Maths requires learners to use mathematics in ways that make them effective in a wide range of contexts – you are almost certainly already giving them these skills. What I am saying is that if you strive to make the real-life application of maths explicit, your pupils will be more engaged and transferability will become automatic.

Happy teaching!

Jayne Garner

Jayne Garner
MEd (Literacy), PGCE, Dip SpLD, AMBDA

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