03 Apr, 2020
10 : 00
When we talk about the integration of East and West in the field of education, we usually expect that it is reflected mainly in language and culture in an international campus. For Yew Wah however, the integration of East and West goes deeper, and extends to philosophy, curriculum and teaching methods. YWIES uses the Chinese National Curriculum of Primary and Secondary Education and enriches it with high quality education resources and education philosophy from overseas. Like all the subjects we offer, the teaching methods in our Mathematics classes are an integration of East and West techniques. When the subject of Mathematics is mentioned, traditionally people often think of memorising formulae and doing a lot of tests to gain a high score, but does mathematics learning has to be like this? In Yew Wah, how do we deliver our Mathematics classes?
1 Learning Maths and Applying What We Learn in Daily Life
Example A: Grade Two, finding numbers in daily life
The students in Grade Two have just learnt to understand numbers up to ten thousand online recently. In order to help them better learn abstract numbers, their Maths teacher Mr Perry Liu encouraged the students to learn the concept of numbers by counting common objects in daily life. For example, when teaching about numbers up to ten thousand, he asked them to illustrate the decimal system using daily goods. To his delight, they came up with many great answers.
Mr Liu assigned a special homework to help children better understand numbers above ten thousand. Let’s watch the wonderful performance produced by our “little broadcasters” via a video.
In order to produce the video above, all the students worked actively on various tasks, such as searching for data online, writing scripts, making a background for reporting, recording, editing, proofreading and even making sure their outfits and hairstyles were appropriate. Their polished products impressed Mr Liu. He feels the children have the talent to become professional broadcasters and producers. Meanwhile, the children worked efficiently during the whole process of producing.
Example B: Grade Three, developing the “Financial I.Q.” of children through Maths teaching
Nowadays, more and more people prefer to use electronic payments. However, it is difficult for children to observe and learn how numbers and currency work in trade when electronic payments are used, even though it is convenient.
Maths teacher Mr Humphrey He therefore designed a lot of teaching activities to simulate the processes of shopping, auctions and sales. Students could understand the price of goods and the relationship between dollars and cents through this process.
Traditional Maths teaching in China is successful in developing students’ understanding of numbers as well as their “Financial I.Q.”. In Yew Wah, Maths teachers implement western teaching methods such as group projects, simulations and debates to promote the advantages of traditional Maths teaching.
2 Adapting Teaching to the Development of Students’ Thinking Skills
Different grades, different teaching methods
Mr Harry He, Mathematics Subject Leader, shared with us:
“When we teach Mathematics, we not only impart knowledge, we also cultivate students’ ability to analyse and solve problems. Children of all ages have different characteristics in their thinking and we need to pay attention to this when we teach.
In the Primary school, we should pay more attention to how to get information, and to the completion and revision of homework. In the Secondary school, we shift the focus to independent exploration, and explanation and self-reflection gradually become more important”
Identifying the “turning points” in Maths education
Mr Humphrey He, Mathematics teacher, shared with us:
“The turning points in the development of students’ thinking can be found in Grade Three and Grade Six. These are the key stages in their cognitive development.
Preschool children mainly use physical movement and visual stimuli in their thinking; From Grade One, children start establishing their abstract thinking; From Grade Three, their abstract thinking and creativity may improve dramatically; From Grade Six, students may achieve rapid progress in skills such as reasoning, summarising and induction. We therefore seek to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate children’s development during key stages. We design Maths classes based on students’ development and seek to inspire our children to enjoy Mathematics. We hope that they will eventually develop all-round abilities in Maths and reasoning.”
3 Finding the Beauty in Maths
At Primary level, students learn basic ideas in geometry such as cardinal points and geometric shapes. If students just sit in the classroom and listen to what the teachers say, they might feel the concept is abstract and difficult to understand. Let’s see how our Maths teachers guide their learning.
Example C: Treasure hunt in the playground
In a class on cardinal points and angles, the Maths teacher, Mr Humphrey He creates a treasure hunt activity. He tells the students that the mysterious treasure can only be found by applying the knowledge they will gain in today’s lesson.
The students rush to the playground with a treasure map and a list of clues from the teacher. The clues may be “One step equals 0.5 metre, and two steps equal one metre”. Or “Facing north, turn 45 degrees and walk about 20 metres.”
Example D: Measuring and calculating the area of the quadrangle of our campus.
Our school’s architecture is full of geometric designs. The graphs give the teachers insights. They design interesting outdoor teaching activities by using this school environment.
The Maths teacher Vicky is teaching our students to calculate the area of a triangle. She finds an innovative way to test the practical abilities of children. She leads the children to the quadrangle. There are geometric patterns on the ground. How to know the size? The pattern can be divided into several triangles. The children are divided into groups. Together they discuss the problem, devise a solution, measure and collect the data. Finally, they calculate the area of the polygon by applying what they have learnt in the classroom.
4 Connecting Students with the Rest of the World
The school encourages students with talent in Maths to take part in some international Maths competitions. Through these competitions, our students can communicate with overseas students academically, broaden their views and build confidence. They may be stimulated to explore and carry out further study in the academic field.
Last semester, our students took part in the American Maths League. Because of their great efforts, they achieved good results. Among 50 students, 30 students won the third prize, 14 students won the second prize, and five students won the first prize. One student won the bronze medal in AMC8.
Both eastern and western teaching philosophies have advantages and disadvantages. We hope our teaching can integrate the good features of both approaches, thereby becoming appealing, informative and well structured. We aim to develop students’ creativity and problem solving skills. With constant innovation and revision, our Maths teachers are able to develop a distinctive Yew Wah style, based on our education philosophy, which combines both the East and the West.