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Chevron Enjoy Science Newsletter Issue 34

Chevron Enjoy Science Newsletter Issue 34

Interactive Mathematics Issue

Humanizing the math classroom

92 math teachers, 30 master teachers, 4 international experts.

A curriculum ten years in the making, adapted and adopted to Thailand.

What did they learn?

“So, there is a child who really likes watermelons,” a teacher excitedly ad-libbed, waving his arms in small emphatic circles. “He bought x watermelons, and went home to find that there were already three watermelons on the table. How many watermelons will he have to eat?”

Another teacher at the table riffed further: “And when he couldn’t eat anymore, he went to sleep. When he woke up, there were x + 3 – 1 watermelons. Who stole the missing watermelon?” The room rippled with laughter.

In a hotel conference room in downtown Bangkok, 92 technical college math teachers explored the delivery of a new kind of math lesson. In the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP), teachers are taught to challenge students to use their imaginations to transform linear equations and graphs into situations in daily life.

Creativity, collaboration, critical reasoning and even laughter are integral parts of a successful IMP classroom. The IMP trainers, four veteran math teachers from the United States, projected the statement onto the wall of their makeshift classroom: “We must humanize the math classroom so that every student sees herself or himself as capable of learning and a valued member of the classroom community.”

Gathered together from 60 technical colleges and one vocational school across Thailand in two five-day workshops this March, these technical teachers are at the frontline of implementing the government’s “Thailand 4.0” initiative, which emphasizes technological innovation and the need for creative and critical thinking for the next generation of Thai graduates.

“When technical students think of math, they think, ‘Oh, boring!’” said Ms. Thisana Bomrungmuang, who teaches at Satun Technical College. “The contextualization of math is one of the most valuable parts about IMP. Students don’t feel like they are studying math—but they are.”

When the Chevron Enjoy Science Project launched to transform STEM education in Thailand, one of the first major decisions was to choose curricula that could successfully facilitate problem-based math learning in Thai technical classrooms.

Each unit of IMP centers around a real-life challenge, such as how to run a successful bakery. The unit on linear equations proposes that two cookies require different amounts of ingredients, and are sold for different prices. Given constraints on ingredients and preparation time, how many of each cookie should be sold to maximize the bakery’s profit?

“[IMP] is not just math, but also habits of mind—how to debug a problem, the idea of inputs becoming outputs and outputs becoming inputs, and reasoning backwards, like in inverse equations,” said Robin Corrozi, a trainer from Lewes, Delaware. “Processes and perseverance.”

The IMP curriculum is known for its core pedagogical practice of engaging the motivations, emotions and learning habits of the students. Having earned an “exemplary” rating by the US Department of Education for its “convincing evidence of effectiveness with diverse populations,” Enjoy Science partnered with Activate Learning, the educational publisher, to contextualize and translate select units into Thai student and teacher editions.

“Enjoy Science was upfront and came to us with a rubric: It has to be scalable, it has to be sustainable, it has to be customizable,” said Thomas Laster, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Activate Learning. “The quality from the vision to the teams to the implementation is really tremendous.”

In Enjoy Science’s model, which engages stakeholders from government, universities and industry, four trainers from Activate Learning come to Thailand to train a selected group of 30 teachers, dubbed “master teachers,” who will in turn collectively run workshops for a larger group of technical teachers.

Enjoy Science’s STEM trainings for technical teachers was found by a third party evaluator to have “a strong impact on teachers and students,” especially in relating lessons to real-world applications and increasing student motivation and class participation.

“The IMP curriculum illustrates how math can become practical and tangible, and the progression of the curriculum helps students rationalize and understand concepts more deeply,” said Bomrungmuang.

Having taught for 29 years, Ms. Bomrungmuang is no stranger to teacher professional development programs. “I’ve been to numerous workshops, but I’ve never experienced anything like IMP,” she said.

“While I am grateful to be here, I regret that other teachers do not have access to this training,” Ms. Bomrungmuang continued, “If I were in the Ministry of Education, I’d make IMP a national policy.”



March 28, 2019