Maths opens minds

A group of local and international subject experts, academics, teachers and mathematicians who attended a four-day conference of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, ­Science and Technology Education (SAARMSTE) at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein. Photo: Supplied
A group of local and international subject experts, academics, teachers and mathematicians who attended a four-day conference of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, ­Science and Technology Education (SAARMSTE) at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein. Photo: Supplied

The study of mastering mathematics took centre stage at the 25th conference of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (SAARMSTE).

It was held from 17 tot 20 January at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein.

SAARMSTE is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (MSTE).

The association aims to foster a sense of community among researchers in the MSTE, to promote research and to improve and develop MSTE programmes in response to current and future needs.

Prof. Maitree Inprasitha presented a lecture to subject experts of Mathematics with emphasis on the Open Approach Lesson Study method, techniques whereby students’ mathematical thinking, perspectives, and development of teaching methods are integrated.

Inprasitha, the dean of the Faculty of Education at the Khon Kaen University in Thailand, is a world-renowned expert on this method.

He also teaches a mathematics education programme at the faculty.

His research and publications focus on mathematics education and teaching styles on the lesson study and the open approach.

Inprasitha said the method encouraged an independent mindset and increased student participation and engagement in the classroom. According to Inprasitha, it also inspired them to think out of the box when solving mathematical problems.

He emphasised the importance of subject expert collaboration, saying it helped to improve teaching and learning at foundation phase to enhance learner performance in Mathematics.

According to Inprasitha, research on the Japanese open approach method, through which learners were taught to think for themselves, had yielded positive results.

“Many countries use the same teaching method when approaching Mathematics. They start with a problem and come up with theories of solving that problem.

“In Japan, they start with a problem-posing phase, which comes before problem sol­ving. Because they use the open approach method, students attempt to come up with as many answers as possible to solve the same problem. In the process, they discover many approaches to solving that particular problem. Our learners need to be exposed to such methods that will enable them to think for themselves.”

Inprasitha also mentioned that mathematical activities generated by open-ended problems were rich and subtle as teachers get the opportunity to evaluate students’ higher-thinking skills.

“Lesson study provides an opportunity for teachers to benefit from one another’s pedagogical knowledge.

“With the learning goal in mind, teachers propose instructional activities that make student thinking visible and open to observation and analysis.”

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