Teaching Maths and Sciences

Posted by Heather Tang in Guyana 21 Oct 2011

While many WorldTeach volunteers are assigned to teach English, some countries request volunteers to teach science and math courses. With limited resources in many schools this may seem like a formidable endeavor, but our creative and dedicated WorldTeach volunteers have proven that they are able to tackle this challenge head on. Corin, Suzanne and Sarah, three WorldTeach Guyana volunteers, talk about making math and science more accessible to their students.

 

maths

 

Corin’s Clever Solution to Teaching Terms

There is a class that I teach three separate classes to, biology, chemistry and human and social biology. As I teach I often break down scientific words to their origin so that the students can see where the definition is coming from. For example, “biology”, “bio” meaning life and “logy” meaning study of. Today I was speaking about chlorophyll in relation to the chloroplasts in plant cells, and a student came up to me after class and asked “Miss, what are the meanings of ‘chloro’ and ‘phyll’?” I hadn’t thought to break it down for them, but afterward a student requested that I do! I thought that was a wonderful moment to have already in the second week here; a student beginning to apply a new way of seeing words, understanding definitions and learning science! Plus this let me know that the students are listening and interested in what I have to say, so I need to make sure that I am consistent with the method that I present the information to them in. I hope that I can continue to have a similar impact over the next year, and help the students begin to find their style of learning and apply it to something they are passionate about!

 

Science & Math Meet Spelling with Suzanne

I’m teaching maths and science to the 8th grade and then physics to the 10th grade. The 8th graders are so full of energy and the classes with them so far have had highs and lows of classroom management and keeping them on task… the kids here are far behind in their education, specifically in maths and writing. I know that’s why I’m here, but I think hearing about the lack of good education and then actually seeing it are two different things. Pretty much all of the students have NEVER been asked to think before in a classroom. The standard for teaching here is to go to the board and copy paragraphs relating to the topic, sit in the back of the classroom and then wait for the students to finish copying.

 

Because of this lack of background, some of the low points in the classroom this week have been asking students to finish the sentence, “I think and onion cell will look like ___”, with the best answer being “I think an onion cell will look like a flower.” The worst was “I think an onion cell will look like ___,” which i got from a lot of the students since they are never asked to fill in a blank. Other examples of the lack of thinking/writing have come out in trying to get my maths students to create their own set, or group of items, out of basic objects found in the courtyard. One of my student spelled “scotch tape” as “skotap”. Another spelled “bottle” as “bele”. Another wrote “cover” as “corve”. I’m beginning to think that my classes need to be not only about science and maths, but also English, so I think I’m going to incorporate spelling wherever possible.

 

Sarah’s First School Based Assessment

Secondary education here culminates with students taking the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificats (CSECs) which are basically huge exams written by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). We usually say “students write their CXCs at the end of grade 11.” For the sciences, part of this exam score includes practical experience, i.e. lab experiments, called School Based Assessments (SBAs). they are supposed to do at least 16 SBAs during grades 10 and 11, and of course my grade 11 students only did 5 last year (I guess that’s better than none!). I did my first one with them last Friday, and it went really well! We did a titration, so for those scientists, you’re probably saying, okay, a buret, some phenolphthalein, an acid and a base, no big deal, easy experiment. So what do you do when your lab doesn’t have burets, phenolphthalein, or even running water? You get creative, that’s what!

 

I found an acid, made a base, and luckily happened upon some full-range indicator, a perfect substitution for the phenolphthalein. We used straws as droppers to slowly add the base to the acid, eliminating the needs for burets. The students had a great time watching their solutions change colors, and they seemed to get pretty good results as well! So it was a lot of fun… I’m proud to say my first SBA was a success, let’s hope the rest go just as well.

 

 

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