Dr. Michael Haese from Haese Mathematics spent yesterday afternoon with some of our students and teachers. Haese Mathematics is an Australian textbook publishing company. Dr. Haese has written what many consider (me included) the best textbooks for the MYP and DP mathematics curricula.
I had a chance to talk with OIS mathematics teacher Mr. Kevin Bertman and Dr. Haese about mathematics teaching and learning. Both gentlemen believe that mathematics differs from the other IB subject areas in that there needs to be a balance between direct instruction and inquiry. Students as they are progressing through the PYP and MYP, need mathematics fundamentals. This involves direct, teacher-driven instruction and rote learning. This will give students a base of facts and processes that they can use to inquiry later on in their use of mathematics. Too much inquiry or justifying why mathematics must be learned or how it relates to their lives, takes time away from learning fundamentals. Of course, inquiry is essential, but limited in its use. The Haese Mathematics textbooks take this into account by each chapter including some example of where a particular math concept is encountered in our daily lives. However, there are also examples of problems and solution and practice sets of problems. Subjects other than math in the IB can have more inquiry which the IB encourages.
We discussed the state of mathematics education throughout the world. In our region of East Asia, students from Japan, Korea, China and Singapore dominate mathematics competitions. This stems from their style of education, including night “cram schools” (juku in Japanese) like Kumon that are devoted to a rote style of learning, including mathematics. It says something that they dominate standardized tests and competitions, including our AISA mathematics competition. Direct instruction works in learning mathematics.
The conversation inspired me support our mathematics curriculum at OIS. The elementary faculty has been working hard at developing a mathematics curriculum in the PYP. I think Dr. Haese or someone similar, working with our secondary mathematics teachers, could really help this initiative. Elementary teachers are asked to be specialists in many fields, which is unfair, and need the support of educators devoted to mathematics.
After seeing Dr. Haese’s books in three of my international schools, it was a pleasure meeting him and put a face to the name on the cover of the books. He is a dynamic educator, passionate about mathematics education. I highly recommend his textbooks and I hope to have him come back sometime.