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The mathematical learning: a critical review.

The recent worldwide success of the biographical drama film The theory
of everything, consecrated with this year Oscars Best actor in a leading role,
reveals the popularity of science nowadays. The film narrates the life of the
physicist Stephen Hawking, how he overcame his disability and became a
genius and possibly the most popular still alive scientist. Yet, when the subject
is mathematics, the basis of all science, to most people it's not delightful like the
other presumed exact sciences. In fact, the opposite happens: it is common to
someone say that hates math. Obviously, there is something magical that
people see in natural science that they cant find when theyre looking through
math. Nevertheless, its not their fault that they cant appreciate it: the guilt is on
the math learning model in schools.
The whole problem begins when students are made to believe that
mathematics is a static field. As opposed to cosmology, for example, that
appears to be under construction and always changing, the mathematics is
seen as something that is already finished. This misunderstanding is
comprehensive, for the way that math is learned in school may pass this
impression. There are presented tools to resolve exercises, but all the theory
and the philosophy behind those tools are ignored, which means that the
student doesn't learn math, but to apply techniques that they even know
whence. That perspective of an immutable and technical discipline takes of the
excitement of the student.
To alter that notion, the whole format of the lectures on mathematics has
to be changed. Firstly, to show that math is dynamic, teachers should embrace
a more historical approach. In that way, students can follow the development of
mathematics and see it as a fruit of human thinking, which accumulates
knowledge and advances according to the historical moment. For instance, for
teaching the Pythagorean Theorem it is important to discuss the development of
geometry in ancient Greece, as well as how it's society was stratified.


addition, all the axioms, theorems and techniques are displayed gradually and
more related with one another.

Furthermore, the teacher has to encourage their students to think and

discuss problems, showing that math is built by logical thinking. It is a mistake
to expect that all students will be interested in long and merely expositive
lectures. More than that, most of times a lecture is less effectively on math
learning that an open discussion. Interactivity is not exclusive of the human
sciences, contrarily: promoting debates and encouraging the students to
participate is fundamental to stimulate logical thinking and rhetoric. However, it
is important to not intimidate the student, but treat him as equal, valuing his
thoughts. A teacher cannot be above his students, but side by side with them.
In sum, the way mathematics is taught in school is the major responsible
for the lack of interest of most people in it. By the time this great mistake is
evaluated by both teachers and mathematicians, new ways of teaching would
not just improve learning of math, but also make it more interesting in class.
Using a historical approach and opening topics for discussion during the
lectures are just two examples of how it can be done. Although they are not yet
routine in the classroom, the results have already proved satisfactory when
these methods are applied. But even more changes will be needed; after all,
teaching as well as math is not a static occupation.