STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Teaching math to an adult is a more difficult process than teaching to younger people. Adults tend to be less perceptive and often lack the curiosity to examine things in detail. The intent of this analysis is to determine the effectiveness of the GCSE Adult Math Class. Effectiveness is evaluated in terms of confidence gained and capability obtained throughout the completion process of the training course. The analysis is based primarily on data acquired through an interview with a teaching assistant, Jane.
The method used to analyze the data obtained through the interview was the coding method. It was performed by first generating this set of relevant categories:
1) Affinity towards math and teaching;
2) Motivation to learn math;
3) Method of teaching;
Paragraphs within the interview transcript were then tagged with these categories. Important ideas pertaining to a specific category were marked and linked to their respective tag. Later the selected ideas were arranged according to the tags which resulted in an organized analysis of the given data. The selected ideas are shown in italic font.
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Affinity towards math and teaching:
The teaching assistant, Jane, previously worked as a printer for 13 years. Her only motivation to become a teaching assistant was to escape the downhill business and strenuous work of her previous job. Prior to this, she was not interested in math. Her background shows a propensity to be intimidated by math because she failed the CSE math exam twice. As a kid she thought math was incomprehensible. She developed an aversion to it for 13 years. Aversions due to bad experiences are further substantiated by other studies as well. Molebash (2004) of San Diego State University said that many described a repugnance to the subject due to their K-12 experiences. Such dislike suggests that if the adult math class is effective in this case, then it would be more probabilistically successful in a majority of the cases.
Motivation to learn math:
According to Jane, the instructor for the class was very entertaining and knowledgeable. She believed that this instructor made learning math as fun as it can be made to be. Her true motivation originated in that she was unable to offer assistance to her own student who also was struggling to assimilate mathematical principals. This indicates the need for support. Any difficult endeavor is simplified by the reception of
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praise, admiration, or at least the interests of others. Evidence is shown for the cause of the motivation through the words of Jane:
It was partly to help me help the student I was working with, because I found she was relying on me a lot, not just with her math but with her studies, with her own personal development (Jane; interview, 01/10/2007).
There were some levels of challenge that helped motivate her further. Jane was trying to see if she could really do the math. Remembering childhood, Jane relates tales of struggle concerning mathematics. She now sees the endeavor as a personal challenge – something to be risen above. She had already been at her job for several years. There was no danger of unemployment concerned with her failure. The only issues that were hinged upon her success were those of a personal nature. She related the challenge to better herself with her ability to help her student: two positives.
Method of Teaching
There is a significant difference between the method of teaching employed during her life as a student and the method employed in the adult math training class. Jane said that during her life as a student, math was taught by teachers who assumed that you already know a number of things. The responsibility of learning was put on the students to make them more independent. Recent studies confirm that this method of teaching had some negative effects on children who are not naturally self-sustaining. To substantiate further, a study in Britain suggest that there is a strong aversion to the transmission of knowledge because the idea that pupils must be ‘active’ and become
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‘independent learners’, is seldom questioned (Ledda, 2005). The adverse results included several separate cases where children fell behind in their studies, eventually resulting in a permanent impairment of their learning process. Jane much prefers her teacher to face her while instructing in a step by step fashion and going back to the beginning if she does not understand.
Having conquered her perceived inability to comprehend mathematics, Jane appreciates the adult training class she completed. Now armed with a knowing confidence, she attacks life’s challenges with fervor unforeseen in her life. She has in effect, gained more than the knowledge, she has gained self-reliance. Being secure in her abilities to achieve something that she felt incapable of has a big effect on her confidence of everything, not just math. She is now able to observe patterns everywhere. From her new knowledge on the concepts of mathematics, she is now able to apply these concepts to the real world as shown in her answer below:
You know, we’ve got the elections at the moment, the GL, the mayor, all that stuff, I used to just read the commentary and leave the math to someone else. Now I say, how many people were in that constituency what was the percentage of the turn out, suddenly I’m using a different level of it, it just opens up a whole new world (Jane; interview, 01/10/2007).
One of the most profound effects of the adult math class in Jane’s case was her being able to share her knowledge and realizations to others. She was able to convince a year 7 student of the importance of math in any area or job the student might decide in the future.
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The teaching method utilized in the adult math training course was a success. Success in a case with such challenging parameters instills a belief for the potential in such a method of instruction to be of general effectiveness. When engaged by adults with adequate motivation, the class proved able to generate a perpetual interest in overcoming mathematical principals as well as the ongoing general development of problem-solving strategies. These idea attributes lead to an expansion of self-confidence, as does the meeting of any given challenge. Conclusive evidence has shown one valid instance of the effectiveness relayed by the teaching method described. Through this teaching method, transference of knowledge can be propagated from one life student to another.
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Ledda, M. (2005). A French Lesson. A Journal Retrieved on January 8, 2007
from the spike-online web site : http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/1084/
Molebash, P. (2004). Preservice Teacher Perceptions of a Technology
Enriched Methods Course. Retrieved on January 8,
2007 from the citejournal web site: http://www.citejournal.org/vol3/iss4/socialstudies/article1.cfm.