Not another brick in the wall

Graph - I am a maths teacher

Okay, so here’s the situation: There’s a classroom, a big square room with windows so temptingly open to the outside world. Inside – some thirty, maybe forty young people and one adult supposed to press some knowledge into heads of all of them. In an hour.

What’s wrong with the picture?

And don’t forget these are teenagers we’re speaking of: at the peak of their energetic potential, when sitting in one place and listening about a subject they don’t like is a dictionary definition of a nightmare. The prospect of the approaching exams is much less powerful than the appealing view just outside the windows. And sometimes, however hard they try, they just can’t get along with trigonometry. Or algebra. Or correct use of prepositions, for that matter. And the teacher – well, the teacher simply doesn’t have enough time to help all the students. All they can do is explain the subject in the most approachable manner and hope for the best because they have only 5 minutes left until the end of the class or only 2 months until the exams. Or both.

So what about those several students in every class that struggle to get a handle on the subject?

“So often students are taught simply to memorise lots of mathematical rules without really understanding the reasons behind them”, said Sharon Hughes, a Maths teacher and founder of Tutors 4 GSCE. “That, and the very abstract way lots of mathematics is often taught means
students get bored and become disengaged with the subject.”

What the children need is attention and some guidance. Their problems with a subject can be very basic, but how are they supposed to cope if nobody can identify the issues? Every student is an individual – not “another brick in the wall” – and they need to be treated as such.

The question is: Can schools afford such an approach? Or are they going to sentence their students to a lifelong aversion to learning?

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