Math is a subject that many people find challenging. Gambians seem to have a special fear of the subject. Seeking to improve student performance, we recently held a workshop on math methods. The main ideas of the training were establishing a solid foundation of number concepts, moving in a gradual and building pace, and making math concrete.
How do you make math concepts concrete? Use manipulatives that allow students to both visualize and interact with place value, fractions, area, and the four operations. But we live in West Africa, and our school struggles to purchase enough chalk. The solution: use locally available resources (some would use the term trash) and create learning aids. Here's what we made.
|In rotating stations, discussing how to use the teaching aids in class|
Are these manipulatives as attractive as those for sale? Nope. I don't do cute things, but if you're into that, I'm confident you could make them more attractive. Are they durable? Not especially, but it is more sustainable to teach teachers how to create and use these kinds of learning aids for their classrooms. When I came to my school, my headteacher showed me a handful of teaching aids that had been donated by well meaning people. Teaching aids they had no idea how to use so they sat in the corner for years. Should we give fish or teach fishing? Creating learning aids from trash, not only allows teachers to create more when they change schools or lose parts, it also helps remove a bit of the garbage strewed about in a country with no waste management system. Is it a small difference? Yes, but that's how these things go and countries grow: slowly, slowly.