What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?
I am a visual learner. I’m also an avid reader with a wide vocabulary, so I enjoy reading. I can conjure up scenes in my head which often make movies-from-books disappointing to me because they don’t fit my vision of the characters or scene.
As a teacher I was always aware of the fact that children have a different learning styles, so in teaching I tried to touch on different ways of presenting material so that more than one approach was used. As a computer teacher at one school where technology was minimally employed, I strove to work with classroom teachers to find activities that supported the curriculum and reinforced in a different way what kids were learning.
Take, for one example, graphing coordinates: there’s a terrific program called Scratch which makes graphing fun, and also adds some programming knowledge. Children can make the cat character move from place to place around the screen by programming it to jump to different coordinates. This is a novel way for children to have fun with graphing, still learning the basic concept involved in a visual way. (That’s only one application of Scratch; it is more complex than that and can be more fun.)
I learned a lot of math late on after struggling with it in school and high school. (I’m definitely one of the people who would have been helped by the use of manipulatives not in practice in the 50’s.) I was saved by age and good instruction in my forties! I wanted to do an M.Ed. at a local university, and found that I was deficient in math, science, and economics because I had actually completed my degree at a university in Scotland, where the number of general education subject one has to take are practically non-existent. If you taking a Bachelor of Arts degree, you take all of your courses in the “Arts” — not science and math — fine with me at the time. It caught up with me later. I took my undergraduate requirements at a community college — much less expensive than at the university where I would eventually gain my M.Ed.
This time I was determined to succeed, realizing that I could overcome my teenage fears and I did. Biology was the hardest (because of the chemistry involved), but I took general math courses which were pretty basic and aced them (with hard work). I also learned that math is fascinating — thanks in no small part to the abilities of the instructors.
A community college educates a wide range of ages and people. I think the instructors are aware of that and have cultivated wider skills to reach a more diverse population. I had never loved math before, but it all began to make sense, and I was finally successful in getting good grades, asking questions I’d have been too intimidated to ask as a teen, and breaking the mindset that I was simply not good at math. I’ll never be a mathematician, but my respect for the purity of the subject was finally engendered. It certainly made me a better math teacher for subsequent fourth graders (some of whom harbored my childhood fears), and I learned to teach using a wide variety of approaches that employed various methods. I knew what they were facing, and wanted them to succeed.
While supporting geometry education as a computer teacher, I enjoyed using the tried and true Logo programming language. With it we made shapes of all sorts, complex shapes, like piles of blocks or intersecting circles, and even some tessellation patterns. Logo is simple but demands attention to detail and above all, an understanding of basic geometry. Everything is built using turns and lines, even curved lines, and these are all controlled by degrees. How interesting it is to see children grasp how a square is made, then another polygon; to learn how to change an equation for a shaped based on the number of sides and degrees. Simple but necessary instructions and strings of language can build incredible structures with just an “run program”. Love it!
While I was a student again in a M.Ed. class on Teaching Math and Science, we had two adjunct professors who were excellent. One instructor taught “teaching math” half the time, and her approach was to make us do some of the best projects that are required of students, then build lessons on what we learned. The Science Guy was outstanding because of his special gift for cartooning (wish all science instructors could do that). He was able to make understanding more complex principles, like chemical bonding, both amusing and understandable. Teaching often involves using atypical methods to get the concept across to people of all ages with different learning styles.