Guest Post: Enhancing the Students’ Learning Experience of Math Through Real Life Application

This guest post by llde Halipa first appeared here on White Group Mathematics, 3 September 2013.

Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” The last part simplifies it. We learn by doing. The application in real life of everything we learned in theory inside the classroom is a much better testament of how much we have truly understood. Experiential learning is considered as a more meaningful kind of learning because a person is acting based on what he knows.

That basically applies to how students’ learning in mathematics can be enhanced further. It is never enough for a learner to be able to enumerate the fundamental operations in math or define geometry, trigonometry, or calculus. It is never enough for him or her to get a passing or even a perfect score in the math exams. That’s not enough to assess how much a student has learned about the subject.

One of the most practical (and annoying for many students) part of a math test is the problem solving. The teacher will provide two or more scenarios which the students will have to analyze and answer with the use of mathematical theories and operations. It is the closest any learner could get to real-world mathematics inside the classroom since the scenarios are almost always taken from real-life situations. It is still on paper though and not very much applicable to each student’s life and experiences. Not enough, if you ask me. Regardless of how real the scenarios are, if the students cannot truly relate to the said contexts, the learning is still not very meaningful and might be subjected to being forgotten.

I am not saying that we should do away with theories, board works, and problem solving in the teaching of mathematics. However, I believe that it would be more significant for the students if they can actually see how they can use in their lives what they have learned inside the classroom, and really apply their learning. This way, we, as teachers, can help facilitate in further enhancing the students’ learning experiences by applying mathematics in real life.

The simplest way for teachers to do this is to think of the many ways that math can be used in everyday situations and use those to help students understand why it is important to know certain math concepts. It is very important for the students to know how numbers can be found in everything that they do on a daily basis. For example, ask them about how they budget their allowance every day. Ask them about what do they usually spend for and how do they decide allotting a certain amount to different items. Let them note down the breakdown of the expenses and the process that they go through. This is a real-life scenario that they can surely relate to. How does this help enhance the students’ learning experience in mathematics? By using a context that they can relate to, it is easier for them to see HOW mathematical concepts work in their lives. They will realize that even with all the complaining of how math has terrorized their brains, they have actually been applying it to make their lives easier and more organized.

So what are the different real-life situations that can be used to enhance the students’ learning experience in mathematics? Here are a few situations that the students can certainly relate to.

First, let them put themselves in the kitchen to prepare a meal. Ask them questions about a dish or dishes that they love to cook. Ask them what are the ingredients and what are the steps needed to create the taste that they prefer. Surely, they will start talking about ratios, measurements, and proportions of various ingredients. This will also include them talking about preparation time. Math is involved in those steps and they will realize that their knowledge of those aforementioned math concepts has helped them many times in the kitchen. Now, talk about shopping with them. Let them say something about their most memorable shopping experience and what they were able to purchase that time. Ask them about prices and the transaction they had to go through to get the item or items. There will surely be some students who will mention a sale and with that, they can talk about discounts and how much they have saved by comparing the original price and the discounted price. Again, they will realize that math is involved in that particular experience. Another situation is when making a choice. Students will talk about probability and chances. They will talk about numerous options they had to consider and some would talk about the process of trial and error. In addition to this third context, decision-making or making a choice is an everyday occurrence. They will surely realize that math has helped them in making real-life decisions. These situations are only a few of the many situations that math has been involved in. Here are more examples: art appreciation, planning a vacation, drawing, painting, dancing, studying structures, budgeting money and time, and many more.

With these situations, students not only understand how the technical parts work, but they also develop their attitudes as learners. They are taught how to be more patient, analytical, critical, and disciplined when faced with different situations. Their realization of the presence of math in their everyday activities will definitely help in how they will develop their understanding of the subject. That way, even without the presence of the teacher, they can deal with just about anything because they would know what to do.