Mathematical competence, understood as the application of mathematical concepts and procedures to solve problems in real contexts, is very important for the comprehensive training of students.
However, despite the recognized importance of this subject, it is frequently perceived by students as a difficult, abstract, boring subject, and disconnected from reality. This leads to a lack of motivation in students, and makes mathematics one of the subjects in which there is a higher rate of school failure.
Different studies indicate that the difficulties encountered by students when facing this subject, especially when solving problems, are related to both cognitive and affective aspects of the student body. The affective predisposition towards mathematics that students develop throughout their school experience has a strong impact on their performance in this subject.
When students are faced with mathematical tasks they may experience feelings of tension or fear of not being able to perform a task or failing. If this feeling persists over time, it generates a mental block. This feeling of disproportionate fear towards mathematics and problem solving has been defined as mathematical anxiety and can trigger an attitude of avoidance of the task, which interferes with their learning.
The importance of the teacher’s attitude
This negative view and students’ difficulties towards mathematics may be related to the way it is taught. In fact, they may have their origin in the teacher’s behavior and in the teaching and learning methodology used.
It is possible, and frequent, for example, that the teacher himself has a bad relationship with the subject. In other words, the teacher is unconsciously transmitting to the students a negative attitude that the students “inherit”. There are studies that determine a negative affectivity towards mathematics in teaching students, which hinders the correct exercise of the teaching profession.
Teaching performance is an important modeling agent of students’ affectivity towards mathematics. Therefore, it is essential that future teachers can develop a positive affective relationship during the training period.
The methodology is what matters.
Many of the mistakes that are made when students face problem solving are due to the fact that they learned to do it applying recipes and mechanically, without deep reasoning. A subject in which the method must prevail over the content is often taught through traditional models, based on expository classes, leaving content transfer in the background.
This results in the inability to transfer learning to other contexts, and generates difficulties in understanding and lack of motivation.
Adequate training in this area requires that educational systems adopt student-centered teaching and learning models, bearing in mind that the objective is not to teach, but to learn.
Active methodologies allow the student to take responsibility for the learning process. The role of the teacher is that of activity designer, in which the students put what they have learned into practice. The teacher adopts a guiding role in these activities: attentive to their development, observing and commenting on how they are resolved and communicating with the students at all times, guiding them in their learning and paying attention to their particularities.
Part of the class time should be dedicated to the student working on contextualized activities, in which he can solve his doubts with the help of the teacher.
In the research group that I direct, at the International University of La Rioja, we think that the key lies in training future mathematics teachers with a methodology such as the one described above. Teach them to encourage active learning and put the student at the center of the learning process, confronting him with the resolution of problems that give meaning to mathematical knowledge. They are methodologies that require the integration of technology and the efficient use of different digital tools as a basis for further preparation.
Digital competence, key
Thus, digital competence has become one of the basic competences of the current teacher. The development of a competent teacher implies a correct use of technology in the classroom, which affects an improvement in learning. It is necessary to train future teachers so that they know how to use digital technologies with confidence. Also teach them to properly integrate them into learning activities that connect mathematics with the real world.
In this sense, different studies have been carried out at the International University of La Rioja for the training of future teachers of Primary and Secondary Education. In these studies, active methodology training programs have been developed. This methodology is based on collaborative activities and the use of digital tools.
Through these activities, future teachers face tasks and problems of interest and significance in relation to the teaching of mathematics. It is intended that they be trained in the contents of the subjects and at the same time learn this methodology by experimenting with it.
The results of this study have revealed that this way of teaching increases the academic performance of our students, and the motivation and commitment to their learning, favoring interactions between classmates and the perception of the role of the teacher in the classroom as a guide to learning. In general, it encourages very positive attitudes in the students.
In addition, it allows future teachers to develop those digital skills required in teachers to meet the training challenges of the new millennium. Students have learned to design learning activities that integrate digital tools for content creation, collaboration and communication, and assessment and problem solving.
The incorporation of these teachers into the educational system will allow us to teach mathematics in a motivating way: the student will be enthusiastic, we will avoid the appearance of negative emotions, and, in this way, academic performance will increase and the failure rate associated with this subject will decrease.
Author Bio: Carmen Romero Garcia is a Hired Doctor Professor and Coordinator of the Area of Didactics of Mathematics and Experimental Sciences at UNIR – International University of La Rioja