Tips: Making Mathematics Fun and Easy for University Students
“Mathematics in Daily Life” surprisingly turned out to be a course that 150 students enrolled in every semester. Most students usually perceive mathematics as either difficult or boring subject. Some students may have no idea how to apply it in their daily lives. Others may be afraid that they could not make good grades. Reference to the evaluation results of teaching done by students, there was an overall average score of 4.47 out of 5.00. The instructor also interviewed the students and they said that the subject was fun. They also reported that the instructor made the subject not as difficult as they earlier thought. For this reason, the students inspired me to share teaching tips that make mathematics class fun and switch the students’ perceptions of it to an easy subject.
Making students feel warm and not worried about the upcoming lessons
Before school starts, I created a LINE chat group for the course. LINE chat group is the first channel in which the instructor can communicate with students and give advice on how to prepare before class starts. In the chat group, I posted notes and sent the documents for studies both in PDF format (in chat) and JPEG (in LINE group album) to facilitate the students. To make the students feel more welcome, I exchanged greetings in friendly language, gave advice and helped to solve the technical issues when necessary—the course was conducted online. This technique not only helps the students be more prepared but also reduce their stress or anxiety about the upcoming classes.
Applying positive leadership strategies to the classroom
In the first lesson (via Zoom), I had a friendly conversation with students to create a warm atmosphere in the classroom by initiating general topics such as greetings like saying “Hello everyone!” or asking “How are you doing”, “Where are the students studying online now?”, “Are you in Bangkok or in other provinces”, etc. This is one of the positive leadership strategies in classroom that the instructor can use to directly influence the behaviors of students and make the classroom atmosphere more welcome to them. This strategy will also enable them to cooperate with me in class more easily.
Another positive leadership strategy is that the instructor will explain the content and pose questions about the content of the course periodically to provide opportunities for students to answer or express their opinions. If the answer is correct, they will be complemented or if the answer is wrong, the instructor does not blame them. Instead, she will explain more to help them understand correctly. This strategy encourages students to focus on positive behaviors and to use this incentive to advance their skills as well as boost their learning motivation.
Case Studies Bring Mathematics to Life
Choose a case study or mathematics content that is relevant to every student so that all students, regardless of their majors, are able to comprehend and emphasize its application in daily life, such as applying knowledge of ratios and percentages for application in comparing prices, finding a discount on any product price, calculating the interest of monthly installment payment, adding or subtracting ingredients to food or beverages, calculating taxes and utilities (electricity, water, telephone, etc.) and applying to packaging design to allot different spaces to cutting, dividing, etc.
Take the teaching topic “Percentages and Its Applications in Daily Life” for example. I started teaching mathematics about percentages like meanings and symbols of percentages. Then, I raised a case study in which I purchased a car for 18,000 pounds with a down payment of 25% of the car price, and the rest is monthly installments with finance companies at an interest rate of 1.99% per year for a period of 48 months. Get the students to find out how many pounds per month I have to pay installments to the finance company.
I explained the calculating principles and asked questions to encourage the students to practice thinking skills and participate in finding answers. Ask questions to students to try to sharpen their thinking process further using a case like if I want to pay installments in a shorter period of 36 months, how many baht per month do I have to pay?
I gave the students 15-25 minutes to complete the task on which they have to figure out the answers in groups. Then I analyze the students’ answers and let them present the results to class. This stage allows me to spark a discussion that enables the students to ask questions and express their opinions. On the final stage, I will wrap up and explain the linkage of knowledge about percentage that can be applied to many aspects in daily life and to be used as a guideline for financial planning.
By introducing case studies to your students and using them in several lessons, the instructor can take mathematical concepts beyond formulas, pages of text and geometrical images. Furthermore, student engagement can be increased through analyzing the formulas and think how they can be implemented in a real-life situation, just like I did in my class.
Authentic assessment is based on several parts of the course, including participating in classroom activities, individual report, and group report on case studies selected by students themselves to demonstrate the connections of applying mathematics knowledge in daily life. The assessment also includes doing tests that emphasize implementation rather than complex calculations.
Pattama Sornkao, Lecturer, Faculty of Science, Siam University