Challenges in Teaching Math 10 in China
Here are some challenges in teaching Chinese students:
1) Language Deficit
2) Study Habits
3) Basic Learning Skills
5) Math Literacy
These challenges have long been known and addressed in Math 10 Classes. These do not hinder from achieving the learning outcomes and preparing Grade 10 students to be literate in Math, in which I can possibly say that they are ready for higher math learning once they complete the course. If we want to improve, challenge, or see our students excel in Math, we need to inspect our type and quality of varied assessments and instructions as well as our teaching resources and opportunities we gave to our students.
How these challenges being dealt with:
1) Language Deficit. This is the first challenge you will encounter in teaching Math, having to teach students who didn’t have any prior English learning studies or with poor English skills.
a) Enforced vocabulary instruction in class with 80% PowerPoint lessons or video lessons ready available for the class.
b) QQ Group Class Discussion for inquiries and sharing of resources. Also used as bulletin for quiz or work reminders or simply English chat for any Math related discussion.
c) Every student is given a chance to speak up in class as mandatory for participation.
d) Every class is provided with video lectures from other sources.
e) Word Problems are given emphasis in class.
f) Any new information or culture introduced in the textbook is always discussed to fully understand the context of the word problem.
2) Study Habits. There are new study habits as students enter to western education.
a) During the first two months, students are guided how to write journals that will help them to obtain higher marks in quizzes.
b) Students are given extra time to do practice exercises before any quiz.
3) Basic Learning Skills. Rote learning can be very hard to change into something like project-based or problem-based learning pedagogy.
a) Emphasis on how acquiring new words is important in solving word problems.
b) Consistent regular practice exercises.
c) All questions that most students failed to answer in quiz and homework is always solved and/or right answer is given in class so they will eventually get the idea. Students who fail to get the right answer are asked to solve the question nevertheless before proceeding to another unit.
d) If a student can’t do well in an activity, she/he is advised to repeat until mastery of a concept is obtained.
e) Students are introduced with authentic assessments and well-prepared by the teacher themselves that will cover the curriculum outcomes twice or more for mastery.
4) Behavior. There will always be one or few students who are not focused into learning.
a) Any students displaying some disruptive behavior or repetitive behavior are noted and had been addressed by one-on-one conversation before sent to the principal for advice.
b) Chinese head teachers are informed about bad behaviors in class.
5) Math Literacy. Despite the fact that more than 50% of the curriculum outcomes are taught in middle school year in Chinese, there are at least 20-50% in the class struggling in Math even in Chinese.
a) Review all important key terms and key concepts in English.
b) Oral reading before starting a new chapter.
c) Mandatory technical vocabulary scavenger hunting.
d) Provide examples that will help students understand better and will likely to come out in assessments.
e) Chapter reflections to identify which part of the lesson must be retaught or give some advices to students on what to focus.
f) Collection of common and difficult word problems every unit to study for every student and exchange ideas from classmates.
Here are some pedagogy, organization tools, and/or practices that were used so students will overcome these struggles:
For the Class:
1) Math Portfolio. Every student has a math portfolio to store work artifacts like quizzes, notes, rubrics, journals, review questions, chapter reflections, and other math learning activities handouts. Previous assessments will serve as review material for major summative assessments like unit test, midterm exam, and Provincial exam.
2) Differentiated Projects. Unit projects are grouped according to the complexity of the work and the groupings will be based on different factors like, academic standing, skills, and random pairing. Each group presents their work outcomes in line with their interests as long as they cover the curriculum outcomes. Every unit of lessons is designed with an authentic project that will integrate the math concepts they’re learning and skills they’re developing at the same time.
3) Consistent Learning Formative Assessments. Every lesson has one or two learning activities that will help students’ affirm their learning outcomes and master the key concepts.
4) Consistent Summative Assessments. All summative assessments, has easy, average, and difficult type of questions geared toward passing the Provincial Exam.
5) Guided Math Instruction. Throughout the year, students are informed what they’re going to study. Year Plan is posted on the classroom wall. Unit project is always introduced in the beginning of the unit or chapter. Students are informed the sequence of what to study every chapter and what curriculum outcomes to cover. There are certain activities and order of learning so students can learn at their own pace of time.
6) Rubrics. Students are aware of assignment/activities rubrics and all other assessments.
7) Social Activities. All Grade 10s are helping the decoration for Halloween. They also have their Math Fun Day where they get to relax after 3 units of study. Their Business Expo is probably their biggest demonstration of math skills and among other skills. They also donate some of their profit for any charitable institution they choose to help.
8) Reflections. Students are asked to write a chapter reflection so the teacher can identify issues and hard problems that needed to be taught again or reviewed.
9) Math Learning Curve Bulletin. At the end of a unit, students will evaluate their understanding and show their own interpretation of their learning.
10) Key Concepts / Key Terms Flash Cards. English-Chinese flash cards to review technical vocabulary.
11) Individual Self-Assessment. This is a self-assessment given after two months of study and later given again at the end of the year to assess the progress of student’s readiness, participation, math skills, work habits, and technology skills of every student.
12) Anecdotal Record. A list of any issues that evolved during the learning span of Math 10.
13) Parents Meeting. When it’s needed, especially for struggling students, parents meeting are called with the Chinese head teacher to address issues and support each other on how the students can overcome their learning disabilities.
14) Open Communication with Curriculum Outcomes. Curriculum outcomes are always introduce to class before having lessons and posted all outcomes written in the year plan. Teachers can assess together with the students if they have fully covered or understood the curriculum outcomes.
For Struggling Students:
1) All struggling students are identified after 6 weeks.
2) All struggling students’ parents are notified their child’s weakness for support.
3) All struggling students are given extra time to finish with teacher’s guidance.
4) All struggling students have to write goal plans to help them improve their marks.
5) All struggling students are advised to attend math tutorial.
For Math-Inclined Students
1) Trained together with other students to excel in Waterloo Olympiads.
2) Given extra tasks to develop other skills that maybe helpful in their future studies.
3) Given a chance to lead a group or work with struggling students for peer tutoring.
4) Strongly encouraged to solve difficult word problems and explain in class.
5) Rewarded as achievers of the week when they excel in a quiz.
There are hard evidences such as math portfolio, formative and summative assessment results, projects, Provincial exam results, and anecdotal records on hand that can support the fact that Grade 10s are learning to their best of their abilities. Parents are even involved on their child’s learning and are updated when there are some important projects or activities. Some parents are invited as career speakers or even judges of their work outcomes.
As a Math 10 teacher for eight years in Nanchang No. 2 HIgh School - Nova Scotia International Program, I can strongly say that there are no issues with Grade 10 students (underachieving or not being challenged) that we did not address so far. It’s their first year of western education and being taught in English is already a big challenge for them. To overcome this and pass Grade 10 is already seen as a success. To add, nobody fails the Provincial Exam and our school has consistent results of no students lower than Level 3 for math literacy. Math 10 grades in Y1 are synchronized with Provincial Exam scores, with 1-3 difference or none at all for the record. As for further Math studies in Grade 11s and 12s, identified struggling Grade 10 students must have continued guiding support or will still be seen as struggling students in higher grades. At the same time, the marks for math-inclined students will have no big significant changes. If it does, then math teachers should identify students’ math issues and deal with it accordingly. As the year increases, it’s very normal that the math will be more difficult and the marks will be lower if the students will not continue to improve their math skills or math instruction do not fit to the needs of these students.
The first 4 quizzes of Math showed students still fail due to comprehension, especially in word problems and will always be a problem in later years for the same reason. I see no issues why Math will be shortened because I see more benefits that a Grade 10 student can get in an 8 classes per week that strengthen their math literacy in English. There are so many skills that are being harnessed in Grade 10 Math such as the following:
1) Math Literacy – doing great in University of Waterloo Math Olympiad and no marks below 70% in Provincial Exam with Level 3/4 scores, integration of technology
2) Critical Thinking – seen in Business Expo, decision-making, travelling assignment, grocery prices comparison, tax, different solutions to a problem
3) Media Presentations – project presentations in video, ppt, or poster
4) Drawing – graphing manually and with the aid of technology
5) Communication & English Skills – presentations, story writing in graphing interpretations, instructional video
6) Writing – math journal and ppt
7) Construction – projects
8) Technology – graphing calculator, apps, media literacy
9) Marketing – Business Expo
10) Advertising – Business Expo
There are probably other things that I failed to mention but nevertheless, we will do our best to challenge our students and best prepare them before letting them study in more independent learning in higher grades. Over the years, I do my unit and course reflection to my teaching and students’ outcomes every year and make some adaptations, changes, and innovations that I strongly wrote this report and what I think about Grade 10 Math. If there’s one thing that is needed to be addressed as an issue about Math instruction – that will be professional development for every Math teachers (since most of the teachers came to China as beginning teachers or previously teaching other curriculums), that we will have other opportunities to learn from others on how we can improve our teaching to make it more effective, explore best practices in Math, and gather more ideas on how our students can learn better and excel in Math in different ways that we may not have learned in our degree and applied in our class instruction. We can’t teach ourselves to be better teachers without experience and yet we can’t be great teachers without mentors.
Questions to Ponder
1) Is getting high marks in Grade 10 Math really a problem? Should we worry more about students failing or struggling?
2) If Math 10 is easy, why there’s only 1 student or sometimes none, or 2-3 will get perfect in a quiz while there’s always students on the 60% line or below? What are our assessments like? Does it promote concept mastery, cover outcomes, and demonstrate math literacy?
3) If we have to do diagnostic test, for what reason? Given that we will have a diagnostic test prior to entering the program, does it help to increase higher grade marks in Grade 11s or 12s?
4) As teachers, are we confident to say that our teaching strategies or math instructions are effective? Are we efficient in delivering the curriculum outcomes?
5) What did we do fill the gap of language barrier and comprehension issues of our students?