The purpose of the Mathematics for health course is to facilitate students to develop comprehension, accuracy, checking methods, and retention of the necessary mathematical skills that they will need in their health professions. The four units that are currently included in the curriculum have covered the appropriate amount of the knowledge. However, from the feedback that I’ve received from students, they were having difficulty following the course book, or as they said “the book makes no sense”. It makes me wonder, how to make mathematics make SENSE??? What can I do to help students to see mathematics is more than 10 digits and a bunch of strange looking signs?
After a few weeks of research on learning theories, “Problem-based learning” caught my attention. Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered instructional strategy in which students collaboratively solve problems and reflect on their experiences. We are dealing with numbers and doing calculations on a daily basis therefore by utilising their prior knowledge and experience in mathematics so that learners can relate themselves better to the learning, hence, MAKE SENSE.
From a constructivist perspective PBL, the role of the instructor is to guide the learning process rather than provide knowledge (Hmelo-Silver & Barrows, 2006). Students need to acquire much more than a store of knowledge in the subjects that related to their future profession. The acquisition and structuring of knowledge in PBL is thought to work through the following cognitive effects (Schmidt, 1993):
• initial analysis of the problem and activation of prior knowledge through small-group discussion
• elaboration on prior knowledge and active processing of new information
• restructuring of knowledge, construction of a semantic network
• social knowledge construction
• learning in context
• stimulation of curiosity related to presentation of a relevant problem
Having the awareness of the diversity of our learners, the old fashion “chalk-and-talk” mathematical teaching style is no longer in favor. Students approach concepts, ideas, and problems differently, according to their backgrounds, experiences, studies, etc. These approaches students use are often referred to as heuristics.
Fennell and Landis’ (1994), Chapter: Number and Operation Sense in the book Windows of Opportunity: Mathematics for Students with Special Needs. Retrieved on 8 / 10 / 2009 from: http://www.teacherlink.org/content/math/interactive/probability/numbersense/numbersense/home.html
Wikipedia- Problem-based learning
Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99–107
BOUD D & FELETTI G (1991) The challenge of problem based learning. Kogan Page Limited.