Sometimes, trends and issues in education can be equivalent to the Emperor’s New Clothes. Things go on as they always have done, and it’s kind of ok because they’re just kids, right? It took Jamie Oliver to point out that a Turkey Twizzler is not the optimum nourishment for tomorrow’s generation of leaders.
There’s a trend in education today that children should have choice and autonomy on what they learn. This is nowhere more apparent than in the majority of educational apps which allow children an enormous degree of control over the content they learn.
Arguably, giving children a degree of choice can create autonomous, engaged learners, and we should all strive for this, without question.
Not to be too obvious, or to stretch the nutrition analogy too far, but: have you ever offered a child the choice between a portion of chips or a portion of broccoli?
At some stage we have to accept that we are the grown ups in this scenario, and they are the kids. By definition, they don’t always know what’s good for them. And, to get back to the subject of education (finally!), children will rarely autonomously choose to tackle a topic they find difficult, especially if they have confidence issues surrounding that subject. Prevarication breeds prevarication for kids and grown-ups alike, especially when you’re avoiding doing something that makes you feel stupid because you don’t understand it properly.
Here’s a different analogy. If a child has tonsillitis, as a doctor you don’t give them a choice of treatment, because they’re not the experts. And in the same way, if a child is struggling with decimals, we as teachers must provide for them the path that will most help them understand this topic.
That’s where a really good teacher or tutor comes in. They can encourage the child on one hand, pitching questions at the correct level, and determinedly revisiting areas of difficulty from different angles till grasped. Thus their expertise can turn a problem area into a positive as the child gains confidence from a difficulty overcome.
As teachers ourselves, we developed DoodleMaths’ algorithms to ensure that the work set is tailored in three regards:
- Their overall maths level
- Particular strengths and weaknesses
- The pace at which they learn
Just like a good tutor. The quality of the algorithms means that not only is the work at the correct level for each individual – not too easy (we know that praise for a task too easily accomplished does not ring true), not so challenging that they’re put off – but it is also engaging and encouraging, so the child is stimulated to keep going and overcome any difficulty.
It might be politically incorrect, but as we teach our children we have to be prescriptive and we cannot pass this responsibility on to the child.
So we at DoodleMaths do prescribe what children learn, question by question. Because we believe that as long as they’re taught properly, individually, as if by a good tutor, we will indeed create autonomous confident learners who WILL succeed at maths.