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With a smile on his face, he approaches the chalkboard. About 90 students await what comes next from Stephen, their mathematics teacher. You can see in their eyes that Stephen has earned not only their attention, but their respect. He begins drawing three shapes on the board: a rectangle, a square, and a circle. He places a title over them: Shading Fractions.
Today’s mathematics lesson has begun for the S1 students of Awach Secondary School.
Students are quick to copy down the shapes they see into their notebooks, glancing at their peers’ notes around them to be sure they got all of the information from the previous day’s lesson correct, words like numerator and denominator with corresponding definitions.
“Who will approach the board and assist?” Stephen asks, looking for a student to demonstrate their knowledge to their peers. He directs one to shade 3/4 of each shape. As the student works on the board, Stephen walks around to monitor the rest of the class. Some are still chatting away quietly, to which he responds, “Let the pen do the talking.”
The students move into the next topic: Addition and Subtraction of Fractions. Instead of distributing a worksheet to each student to work on, Stephen works with the resources he has - he writes the instructions on the board and provides three problems to solve:
- 1/a + 1/b
- 1/2 + 1/4
- 1/3 + 3/4
He works together with the students on the first problem, posing questions to assist them in arriving to the correct answer. “Now, you must work on your own,” he instructs, wanting to see how students arrive at the answers on their own.
After a few minutes, Stephen asks for a volunteer to approach the board. Within seconds, the hands of 20 or more students fly into the air hoping to be selected, but only one is chosen: James. All eyes follow him as he approaches the board with a piece of chalk and begins to solve the problem. When finished, he breathes a sigh of relief that he can return to his seat in the back of the room. The bell rings and the students are dismissed for today.
Stephen’s mathematics class pushes students to consider math as an everyday practical skill. He works tirelessly to help students understand why math is important to their success in society when it comes to business, finance, homeownership, and farming.
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