T. N. Carraher, D. W. Carraher, & A. D. Schliemann (1985) bring forth an interesting insight in “Mathematics in the streets and in schools”. Through their study, these researchers found children involved in the street markets making complex mental math calculations daily and successfully; however, when these same children were brought into a setting with similar pencil and paper mathematical tasks, many of them underperformed. Their results showed that “context-embedded problems were much more easily solved than ones without a context” (p. 24). In their context (the market) when solving successfully, “actual items in question were physically present” (p. 25). Too often in our math classrooms we are asking students to deal with operations and mathematical problems that are “in a very real sense divorced from reality” (p. 28).
As I have mentioned in previous posts, when considering this research and others we have encountered earlier in this course during our exploration of the Jasper series, I set out to revamp some of the problem solving I was using in my grade 3 math class. After exploring many problems that I tried to base in my students’ lives and make more real to them, our next project was to have students create their own problems. I had students use Google slides, accessed by an easy bit.ly address, to compile a class set of problems. Next, we took pictures to add to the slides that showcased the problems using as many props and settings relevant to the problem as possible. This collection was then put on our class blog for students to access from home over spring break to work on. If you would like to see how the project turned out visit: http://mrskostiuksclass.edublogs.org/2017/03/17/solve-me/
Using programs such as GLOBE and virtual field trips are ways to utilize the accessible affordances offered by technology in this day and age. GLOBE not only connects classes with real life scientists and experts in their fields, but it also provides a platform for students to contribute meaningful data to ongoing studies. Showing students future careers in different fields and ways they can contribute in the present day is impactful. Additionally, GLOBE “encourages students to understand the context of their own environment” (p. 12) by immersing them in conducting research around them. As evidenced in the Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Schliemann, A. D. (1985) study, showing students how to solve problems in context is more likely to later be recalled in context when needed.
Similarly, Adedokun, O. A., Hetzel, K., Parker, L. C., Loizzo, J., Burgess, W. D., & Paul Robinson, J. (2012) find that virtual field trips can be “viable alternatives for providing students with learning opportunities and experiences that would have otherwise been unavailable to them” (p. 608) while exposing students to scientists and their real, authentic work.
In summary, I believe that providing students with as many experiences as possible that are situated in context and engaging in problem solving not only for problems they may encounter in the work force but also for problems they currently encounter in their everyday lives as children and students, we can better prepare them with skills necessary to succeed in the math and sciences.
Adedokun, O. A., Hetzel, K., Parker, L. C., Loizzo, J., Burgess, W. D., & Paul Robinson, J. (2012). Using Virtual Field Trips to Connect Students with University Scientists: Core Elements and Evaluation of zipTrips™. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(5), 1-12.
Butler, D.M., & MacGregor, I.D. (2003). GLOBE: Science and education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(1), 9-20.
Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Schliemann, A. D. (1985). Mathematics in the streets and in schools. British journal of developmental psychology, 3(1), 21-29.