The Power of Real Life Examples in Math Instruction

Anneliese Pixton, Director of Education, shares how Positive Learning is making math fun, real, and relevant for junior high-high school students:

In a secondary math 1 Primer, students learn about algebra and its real life applications with Jamie, who works part-time at an ice cream shop. One week she is offered extra hours, but she’s not sure what to do. In the end, she uses algebra to decide if she should work more or the same amount of hours. 

In a secondary math 1 Primer, students learn about algebra and its real life applications with Jamie, who works part-time at an ice cream shop. One week she is offered extra hours, but she’s not sure what to do. In the end, she uses algebra to decide if she should work more or the same amount of hours. 

As we design each Primer, we ensure that all of our examples are relevant to junior high to high school students. Our goal is to humanize math we want to show students that math is all around them, not just in the classroom. Some examples, like Jamie and her part time job, are meant to help students see how math can help them make everyday decisions. Others are designed to keep the lesson engaging, fun, and comprehensible. Examples are also great teaching tools because we have the opportunity to help students understand key cultural differences, like how a US school works. In a Primer about weighted averages, we designed an example about the grading system so students could understand how their grades are determined, which could be a new concept for most students born outside of the U.S. This example teaches the student mathematical concepts, engages them with a relevant concept, and introduces them to new, and important information.

Engaging and relevant examples aren’t only fun and useful, they play an integral role in helping students keep their affective filter down. Anytime ELLs are anxious, self-conscious, alienated, or bored, they throw up a wall around themselves and are no longer able to take in new information. Students don’t consciously make the decision to isolate themselves; it’s an automatic defense mechanism. To avoid triggering this defense mechanism, educators must assist ELLs according to their unique needs. Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have teaching tools specifically designed for their ELL students or don’t have the necessary training. That’s why the Positive Learning system is so unique: it is a program designed to enable ELLs to master mathematical concepts without demanding more from teachers.