Innovation: Education

Math, middle schoolers and real-world relevance (infographic)

I consider myself an infographic enthusiast, and as a former middle school math teacher when the infographic below was passed on to me I was of course interested:


An infographic showing the types of connections middle school students make about math and the real world


It was encouraging to see 7 out of 10 students liked math, but out of 1000 surveyed students, that means there are about 300 that don’t; and that isn’t so encouraging.  Scrolling down to Top Favorite Subjects, I was again hopeful when seeing math ranked third.

While that alone was pleasing to a former math teacher, I was also excited to see that P.E. and art ranked one and two respectively.  I’m a firm believer that exercise boosts learning, and I don’t think I need to make a case for the connections between art, creativity, and math. I wasn’t surprised to see that students enjoy learning new subjects through hands-on activities, but what the Infographic leaves out is that only 4% of surveyed students enjoy learning new subjects through video lessons.  During this revolution of flipped instruction, that 4% seems a little concerning. 

So, what is my big takeaway from this Infographic?  Relevance. 

With only 58% of students reporting that math is important for their future, we don’t seem to be doing a good job of promoting authentic relevance to students’ lives.  I don’t put much weight into the statistic that 38% of students think math is important for fashion design.  What if I don’t care about fashion design?  I’m certainly not going to care then about the necessary skills behind fashion design. 

So how is math relevant to your students?  And what can you do to support that connection?

Meredith Swallow

Meredith Swallow is in her fourth year as a doctoral student at UVM, and is working with the Tarrant Institute as a Research Associate and Professional Development Coordinator. As a former middle- and high-school math teacher, Meredith facilitated environments of engaged, active learning, by supporting the connection of knowledge through interaction, understanding, and meaning. Her research focuses on the intersection of educational technology, content knowledge, and pedagogy, and how that supports twenty-first century educational goals and outcomes. She strives to model effective technology integration across multiple disciplines by recognizing diverse learning needs and specific school and teacher contexts. When not studying or engaging in research, Meredith enjoys her time in the outdoors hiking with her trusted sidekick Jack the Dog.


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