Teaching mathematics creatively: Real maths!
Everyday things hold wonderful secrets for those who know how to observe and tell about them.
(Rodari, cited by Castagnetti and Vecchi 1997: 12)
For many children and adults, mathematics is real when it conforms to established expectations about what maths is. In school, it is often interpreted as learning to do everyday calculations that could be applied to real life; the problem so often is that children fail to make the connections that can seem very obvious to the adults involved. Drummond (2003) gives an example of a child in Year 3 working through a test sheet. Many of the test items were rooted in everyday experiences – comparing heights and money transactions, for example. And yet, whether abstract sums or everyday problems were involved, the child’s response was an apparently meaningless string of numbers. Drummond suggests that the teachers’ approaches have conflicted with his right to learn. She continues:
We can also see how Jason has accepted his responsibilities as a pupil, including his responsibility to comply with his teachers, who have treated his compliance as a pupil as if it alone were a sufficient and satisfactory outcome of their teaching. They seem to have lost sight of their responsibility to use their power in the interests of learning, rather than simply as an instrument of social control. Jason’s quest for meaning emphasises his teachers’ responsibility constantly to check whether the world they invite Jason to inhabit as a pupil is one that makes sense to him as a child.