Democratizing mathematics learning through blended learning
Blended learning is taking the world by storm. Accelerated by the global pandemic, fueled by the growing use of smartphones and fueled by a new generation of technology-savvy learners, blended learning seems here to stay. The case for blended learning has been voiced by countless educators, policy makers, students, and education influencers for a variety of reasons. Today I repeat the same case. Blended learning has the power to pave the way for inclusiveness in math classrooms. Using apps will help students overcome their fear of math and feel included in classrooms where they have felt lost for too long. This article will explain a simple but important use case.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is a teaching method that combines traditional classroom teaching techniques with online learning and application-based learning. Think of it as a cross between traditional classroom learning and full pandemic-style online learning. Blended learning seeks to overcome the weaknesses of each of its components by combining their strengths: the infinite patience and instant availability of applications combined with the insights and flexibility of human learning. An ever-larger segment of modern educators is transitioning to a blended learning model. So how does this relate to inclusivity?
Math Mastery Problem
Mathematics is inherently a mastery-based skill. Advanced concepts in mathematics simply cannot be taught unless the basic concepts have been fully mastered. However, in traditional classrooms there will always be students who have gaps in their understanding of simpler concepts than what is currently being taught. Students who have gaps in their understanding of algebra will find it very difficult to solve trigonometry questions. However, many students pass the core exams regardless of the lower scores. As a result, they move into an advanced class without achieving mastery and have difficulty developing an understanding of more complex concepts.
This also applies to the opposite end of the spectrum. Some students will achieve mastery of certain concepts on their own and thus better understand and solve more complex problems. Students who already understand how fractions, ratios, and percentages work can move on to solving simple problems of interest instead of re-reading them with their class. However, many of them get stuck with their class having to reteach concepts they already know.
The end result is a situation where in every class there is a certain group of students who face great difficulty in understanding what is being taught and also another group of students who waste time learning what they are learning. Both of these problems are caused by different levels of mastery. In current traditional classroom models, solving this problem is very difficult because it is impossible for teachers to be able to teach at three different levels in the same classroom and accommodate each of them. In most cases, this is where the problem of exclusivity in the math classroom begins.
Solution: Blended learning in mathematics
Blended learning suggests that students take mathematics learning into their own hands by learning the concepts. Unlike human teachers, apps have infinite patience and infinite personalization. Human tutors can help clarify important concepts or explain problems that are too difficult to solve. By allowing students to learn and master concepts independently:
- Students who are lagging behind can feel freer to spend as much time as needed to clarify basic concepts.
- Students who had already mastered certain concepts could spend time exploring advanced concepts.
- Students at their current mastery levels will have an additional learning resource and endless hours of practice.
The results are great, students who take a mastery-based learning approach earn 5 AP Calculus credits in their second year. Freeing up the time and effort teachers devote to teaching common core subjects also allows them to spend more time teaching life skills and more complex concepts that would otherwise go untaught.
What does it mean
For the first time in recent history, there is a practical and possible way to make every student in a math class feel like they belong. Students who have historically feared math because they were behind because of gaps in understanding now have a way of appreciating math when many of their peers are more “advanced.” What blended learning is slowly doing is creating a level of inclusivity in the classroom that human teachers couldn’t.
One can think of other ways in which blended learning will leave an impact on current educational methods. Sal Khan’s famous flipped learning methods redefine the way lessons are used in the classroom. Reading apps assign vocabulary levels to students in a way that classroom grading could not. More and more cases of innovative implementation are appearing everywhere and the world is coming up with solutions to complicated problems. But one thing is clear, as more people introduce technology as an integral part of maths learning, we are likely to create a learning environment that is friendlier than ever before and encourage children who have always been afraid to enjoy maths for fun. It is.