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Teaching Mathematics And Science In Philippines


Introduction

Teaching mathematics and science has become a major issue in different countries and regions. The teaching strategies used by teachers and the quality of teachers have affected performance of the students as they are not able to understand the content being taught.  The science and mathematics education has deteriorated in many places including Philippines. This is according to a report released by the University of Philippines


The experts attributed the deterioration of the science and mathematics education with science and mathematics curriculum as it was old.  The curriculum encouraged teachers to use poor teaching methods such as rote learning instead of inquiry. Thus, this affected students grades, understanding and acquisition of skills. This paper examines methods used to teach science and mathematics in Philippines and how EDFD317 can help in teaching mathematics and science in Philippines.

Purpose of the investigation

The research was aimed at determining factors that contributed to low achievement in mathematics and science in Philippines. Experts from the University of Philippines argued that students from Philippines performed poorly in mathematics and science compared to students from other nations in the world.  The experts identified several problems that contributed to the poor performance including the teaching methods used by teachers   and poor curriculum.  The experts claimed that the curriculum used encouraged rote learning and this made it hard for students to develop skills and understand the content.


Learners are only required to memorize the content being taught and apply it in other areas.  Teachers did not teaching methods that encouraged inquiry and affected students learning and grades.  The curriculum being used did not encourage teachers to use inquiry strategies when teaching and other strategies and prevented students from acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge that could help them in different aspects of life (Makgato &Mji, 2006).

Second, the study was aimed at identifying teaching strategies that can be used to improve teaching of mathematics and science in Philippines so as to improve student’s achievement.  There are various strategies that can be used to teach students mathematics and science like inquiry strategies and integrative strategies. Integrating the strategies into the curriculum used in Philippines will boost student’s grades and give them a competitive edge over other students. Third, the study was aimed at proposing changes to the curriculum used in Philippines to ensure it is inline with curriculums used by other countries and the UNESCO standard of teaching mathematics and science (GMA.(2012).


Literature review

The science and mathematics curriculum being used in the high school and other institutions was old.  The experts from the University of Philippines claimed that the curriculum encouraged rote learning instead of inquiry and high levels of thinking. Rote learning is a kind of learning method that concentrates on memorization of the content without using meaning to store content. In rote learning students learn by repeating the content so as to be able to remember the information.  Rote learning helps students recall the meaning of the content being taught quickly.


Rote learning has been used in teaching mathematics and science in many institutions including high school.  Rote learning is mostly used in mathematics to memorize the multiplication tables. In this case, complex problems are divided into small and simple multiplications. The answers to the basic operations are important in complex mathematical operations.  The teachers believe that having the answers at hand mentally helps on complex mathematical operations and in learning advanced concepts.  Rote learning is used in colleges especially when teaching abstract algebra and linear algebra (The Philippine star, 2011).

The “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization” prohibited the use of rote learning in schools in 1993 as it affected the performance of the students.

The director for National Institute for science and mathematics education development in the University of Philippines, Dr. Merle Tan claimed that the achievement of learners in mathematics and science in the country was lower than in other nations.  In addition, the director claimed that the curriculum did not take into consideration the high drop out in the area and it did not meet the needs of students who might have dropped out of school at a certain grade (The Philippine star, 2011).


The director claimed that there was a gap between  the  science  and mathematics  education  practiced  and  their skills  and knowledge  that  are required for  day to day life.  The director stated that students in other countries performed well in mathematics and science because the teachers taught the content in depth.  In addition,  the  teachers  introduced  skills  and ideas  when  teaching mathematics  and science  and hence prepared students  for  real life situations. Teachers also helped students develop scientific literacy (The Philippine star, 2011).


The theories of cognition play an important role in teaching mathematics and sciences as thy enable teachers understand students learning ability and the teaching strategies to use. Researchers have conducted studies to determine teaching strategies that can be used to teach science and mathematics education in high school so as to improve students performance. The developments in cognitive research, developmental psychology and the need to educate students have changed how mathematics and science are taught in schools.


Researchers argue that students learn best through personal experience and also by linking what they have learned in class with what they believe and know. Jarrett (1997) studied how teachers can improve students’ performance in science and mathematics by using inquiry method. Inquiry method is the best method of teaching student’s science and mathematics instead of rote learning.  

 

Using inquiry method enables the learners to investigate the nature of science.  Students are able to find explanations for things that they are curious. Inquiry consists of skills  and activities  that  concentrate in  the  search  for knowledge  and  understand so as to satisfy students  curiosity.  Inquiry method is important in teaching mathematics. Mathematics education does not only include arithmetic and algorithms, but it is a diverse field that entails data, measurements and pattern recognition.  The process of learning mathematics and doing mathematics does not only involve calculations and deductions, but it is entails observation of patterns, estimating results etc (Jarrett,1997).

The inquiry process happens on a continuum.  Teachers can use the inquiry method to use when teaching students from the continuum.  They can choose to use hand on activities and experiments placed on one side of the continuum when teaching students. In addition they can use science kits to teach students. Also, students can produce their own questions for investigation as evidenced in the farthest side of the continuum. 


Teachers should focus on the extreme end of the inquiry continuum where learners participate in the inquiry process.  Teachers can use lower level inquiry strategies to meet certain goals, but they should not assume the inquiries have all the components of inquiry. They can use hands on activities to meet certain goals.  Teachers are supposed to take into consideration various things when choosing inquiry strategies from the inquiry continuum.  They should consider their teaching skills, learners’ readiness, age and ability and the pedagogical goals.  The teachers will move from one end of the continuum to the other occasionally to meet specific goals and situations (Jarrett,1997).

Researchers including (Makgato &Mji, 2006) have identified teaching strategies that are elements on inquiry used by teachers to teach mathematics and science. First, teachers use activities to teach the subjects. They ensure activities have been set up to enable students to be actively involved in the learning processes. The activities enable students to investigate problems and provide solutions. This ensures they are mentally and physically involved in the learning process. Second, teachers utilize verbal interaction to determine whether students have understood the content or not. They encourage students to work in small groups so as to understand the content. Third, teachers utilize questioning method to engage the students and determine whether they have understood the content or not. They also offer clear explanations to students when necessary (Jarrett, 1997).


Using inquiry strategies to teach mathematics and science can improve student’s performance by improving understanding of the content. Inquiry strategies enable learners to develop critical thinking skills as they use hands on activities and other activities to learn the content.  The hands on activities enable students to apply the content learned in class in real life and find solutions to problems.


Students learn how to work as a team, to articulate their own ideas and respect the opinion of other students. Students acquire inquiry skills that help them in different aspects of life. Moreover, inquiry strategies encourages mathematical discovery. Inquiry strategies  enable  students to learn mathematical  concepts  and  acquire  mathematical  knowledge by  exploring , reasoning  and  determining whether something  seem sensible.  The learners develop ideas and knowledge that can be applied in real life.
Lastly, inquiry strategies enhance student’s attitude and improve their academic performance.  Students who use hands on activities and work as a team to solve problems like science and mathematics subjects. On the other hand, students who learn via lecturers and readings from textbooks do not like mathematics and science and hence perform poor compared to students who use hands on activities. Thus, the inquiry strategies can be implemented in  Philippines to improve  teaching of science and mathematics and  students performance (Jarrett,1997).

Further, Mansilla and Nikitina (2003) identified integrative strategies that can be used to teach mathematics and science in high school.   The first strategy is essentializing.  Essentializing strategy is aimed at showing the relationship between science and mathematics.  Teachers use essentializing strategy to bring together concepts from the two subjects when teaching.  Essentializing strategy enables students to understand scientific concepts and mathematical concepts being taught as they are able to reason scientifically and mathematically.


Teachers in Philippines do not show the relationship between science and mathematics when teaching and instead use rote learning. This has made it hard for students to know the relationship between the two subjects.  Students are able to see how various subjects like history and literature are related and hence understand them.  The essentializing strategy can promote understanding of the science and mathematics content and improve student’s performance in Philippines if implemented (Mansilla &Nikitina, 2003).

The second strategy is contextualizing.  This strategy weaves mathematics and science into history of idea.  The last strategy is problem centering. In this case, the instructors present students with a problem and then ask them to solve it. This enables students to apply the content they have learned in class hence improve their problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and understanding.


The strategies were used to teach mathematics  and science in  Illinois  mathematics and  science  academy to teach  science and mathematics  and they proved effective as students performance improved  Teachers were able to deliver the content to students well  and satisfy the students needs. The strategies can be used to teach mathematics and science in Philippines as teachers will be able to show the relationship between the two subjects and improve students problem solving skills. This will in turn enhance student’s comprehension of the content being taught and hence give students from Philippines an opportunity to compete with students from other countries (Mansilla &Nikitina, 2003).

Locale and sample

The study was conducted in Philippines as the researcher wanted to determine the causes of poor performance in science and mathematics and propose solutions.  A sample of 6 teachers and 5 high school students were used in the study.  The teachers were from various schools in different parts of the country. The teachers were from 1 school in national capital region, 1 school in Pasig city, 1 school from Quezon City, 1 school from Manila, 1 school from Davao city and 1 from Cebu city.  Teachers and students were selected from each school.


The students were also from the schools.  The participants were selected using stratified random technique to ensure they represented the population being taught.  The selection of the participants was based on gender, occupation, education level etc.  A total of 3 teachers and 2 students used in the study were female and the rest male. The participants were required to fill a consent form before participating in the study to ensure they took part in the study voluntarily.  The participants were educated on the benefits and risks of the study before making any choice.  The research was approved by the institutional review board in the country (Makgato &Mji, 2006).

Data collection method

Data from the participants was selected using interview method.    The interview questions were related to the research problem and the literature review section. Using interviews to collect data from the participants has a lot of benefits.  Interviews give the researcher an opportunity to ask for clarification where necessary. They also give the interviewee an opportunity to provide detailed information about the problem being studied.  However, interviews can led to biased results as the researcher can interfere with the responses given by the participants.  The interview questions were well developed to ensure only important information was collected from the participants (Makgato &Mji, 2006).


Results

The results from the study showed that teachers do not use appropriate strategies when teaching students mathematics and science and this made it hard for them to understand the content. This was evidenced by the student’s comments.  The students used in the interview claimed that they did not understand the content as the teachers were too fast when teaching and those teachers encouraged them to memorize the content. 


When learning mathematics, students were encouraged to memorize operations as they used them when learning more complex concepts. This is according  to students 1,2  and 3 comments “… how teachers encourage us to memorize the content…”  student 4  and 5 said they did not understand the content as teachers were fast and  promoted memorization of content “…the teacher is very fastI do not understand mathematics and science. I want someone who is patient and does not encourage memorization…”.   Student 2 said “…my teacher does not use hands on  activities when teaching and am unable to understand the topic…”.
Additionally , student 5 said the teacher used question strategy to determine whether they understood the content, but did not give them problems to solve to improve their critical thinking , problem solving and apply what they have learned. Student 5 said “ how teacher asks us questions at the end of the lesson... and this helps us understand the content…but he does not give us problems to solve…”

The findings from the study also showed that students struggled understanding mathematics and science. Though the teachers used building background strategy sometimes, students did not understand why they used the strategy and this made it hard for them to connect the content they had learned before and the content being taught. This is shown by comments from Student 1. Student 1 said “…I sometimes wonder why the teacher talks about the things we learned before instead of teaching the topic now …” .  In addition, the teachers did not know the strategies to use to teach science and mathematics. 


The teachers mostly encouraged students to memorize the content as exemplified by comments from teacher 1. “… actually I do not know how to teach science and mathematics and I encourage students to memorize the content…” The teachers did not use inquiry strategies and integrative strategies when teaching. The teachers rarely used hands on activities and laboratory experiments   when teaching students and this hindered students from acquiring appropriate skills. Teacher 4 said “… I rarely use hands on activities when teaching science and mathematics…I do not know their importance in teaching and learning…”. Teacher 3 said “… I use building background strategy to help learners connect what they read before and what they are reading, but I do not ask them whether they know why we are reviewing what we learned before…”. 
Teacher 2 claimed “… I have never used hand on activities and building background strategy , but sometimes used  experiments…”.   Teacher 6 used questioning strategy to determine whether students understood the content as shown by his comment “…I use questioning strategy when teaching to determine whether students have understood and I rarely help them if they do not understand as the content is simple for them to understandbut I do not give them problems to solve…”(Makgato &Mji, 2006).

 


Conclusion

In conclusion, poor teaching methods have contributed to poor performance in science and mathematics. Teachers do not use appropriate strategies when teaching students and this has affected their understanding and grades. Most teachers encourage memorization of the content. Students are encouraged to memorize the concepts and apply them.  Teachers do not use inquiry strategies and integrative strategies when teaching students. The teachers do not use hands on activities and experiments when teaching students and this has hindered students from applying the content learned in class and acquiring skills.   


The curriculum used in Philippine should be changed to satify the requirements of the students and give them a competitive edge. Lack of technology capacity in the country has affected science and mathematics education. The advancement in technology in the country will help improve science and mathematic education as educators will use inquiry strategies when delivering instructions to students instead of rote learning. This will equip students with different skills including critical thinking, problem solving, analytical etc.

Reference

GMA.(2012).PHL senator urges reforms in Science, Math education. Retrieved from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/248868/scitech/science/phl-senator-urges-reforms-in-science-math-education on 4/07/2012

Jarrett,D.(1997).Inquiry strategies for science and mathematics learning. Northwest Regional Education laboratory

Makgato,M.,&Mji,A.(2006).Factors associated with high school learners poor performance. A spotlight on mathematics and physical science. Southern African journal of education, vol26, issue no2,p253-266

Mansilla,V.B.,&Nikitina,S.(2003). Three strategies  for interdisciplinary math and science teaching. A case of the Illinois mathematics and science academy. Retrieved from http://www.goodworkproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/21-Strategy-for-ID-Math-Science-3_03.pdf on 4/07/2012

The Philippine star.(2011).New curriculum  to improve math , science education. Retrievedfromhttp://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=666941&publicationSubCategoryId=442 on 4/07/2012


 Appendices

Interview questions

Student

Does the teacher involve students in teaching through questioning and discussion?

Does the teacher use hands on activities when teaching?

Does the teacher encourage memorization of the content?

Does the teacher build background to help students understand the content or topic?

Does the teacher use experiments to teach students?


Teacher

Do you use building background strategy when teaching students and do you inform them the reason you are using it?

Do you encourage students to participate in hands on activities or laboratory experiments when teaching?

Do you encourage memorization of the content when teaching?

Do you use questioning strategy to determine whether the students have understood the content and give students problems to solve?


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