Amid socioeconomic change and developing technology, hard and soft skills have become more critical than ever. The role of teachers has changed as a result of the pandemic. The old “show-and-tell” teaching is considered insufficient and no longer practical in the evolving 21st-century era. Especially as COVID-19 has drastically widened the gap between rich and poor, it pushes many more students with limited access to new technology into learning loss, which caused an urgent need for accelerated learning to develop education in the 21st century.
To support the current situation of education in Thailand, Kenan Foundation Asia partnered with Sumitomo Corporation Thailand to conduct the “100 Seed: Light Up” project. With sustainable development goals towards education development, Kenan facilitated a teacher development program in secondary schools using the Active Math module to foster participatory learning in math class through teachers. Math activities have bridged concrete to abstract concepts, which helps students gain knowledge and understand systematically. Kenan’s program also includes a Professional Learning Community and exclusive consultant sessions to ensure sustainable educational development.
Saharat Puautree, a teacher from Ban Nong Tam School, Ang Thong province, is one of the math teachers who participated in the 100 Seed: Light Up project. He shared with us, “Math merges with almost every subject that requires numbers and effective calculation to crack the right result. I would say that math in secondary school is important as a fundamental knowledge itself, and it allows students to advance their potential to achieve higher education or career paths in the future.”
Challenges in teaching math
Saharat said, “Math at the secondary level is quite complex as it contains more abstract concepts than the previous level. Teachers need to show their students concrete steps through teaching materials first. Then, helping them get the concept by gradually leveling it up to the abstract aspect. The common challenges are that some teachers might not optimize the existing materials or technologies to reach the abstract concept. The struggle to come up with a creative approach to make students more active in class is one of those common issues as well.”
“Despite various kinds of training being produced nowadays, math teachers still undergo a lack of development opportunities as there are small amounts of training that were specifically improved for math teaching. Moreover, most of those math training programs usually have limited seats to enroll, and some are not what we are looking for.”
Saharat also expressed his experience during COVID-19 OVER these past two years, “not only limited equipment and technology access at home, but we also got lost in translation with the students. They might tell you that they get the concept, but we cannot be sure if they truly understand it. Therefore, I need to schedule a regular follow-up through worksheets or breakout activities to make sure my students can apply what they have learned.”
Heading to the Active Math classroom
After participating in our project, Saharat has indicated his impression, “first things first; I was impressed by the systematic workflow from all facilitators. Second would be the key takeaways and new pedagogies from the training that can be applied in my class. Training provided teachers with teaching techniques to help students summarize what they learned and have been asked in class. It also encourages students to conduct a review lesson before jumping to the next level.”
“Back then, teachers only answered right or wrong. But now, when the boundaries of learning have been removed, students can freely come up with their answers. I can see lots of fresh ideas coming in, and the classroom environment becomes more and more engaging. Meanwhile, teachers can optimize critical thinking and summarizing skills to meet the objective of each lesson.” Saharat exchanged ideas and experiences with other math and master teachers during the PLC mentoring session, which significantly benefited his class.
A new perspective of teaching through Active Math
Saharat shared his experience after joining Kenan’s Active Math session, “traditional math usually aims for evaluation and exams, but Active Math focuses on hands-on learning. Teachers can observe students developing essential skills for daily life. By emphasizing the importance of communication and critical thinking skills, even though math is complex, students will be able to express and apply the lesson in class with the real world.”
He went on to say, “unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we don’t have a chance to implement the Active Math module fully. However, I applied this new system in my online class, which positively impacted how students participated. They discuss and become more open to exploring more than before. What impressed me the most is that my students can better summarize and criticize, which achieves the learning goal.”
Saharat said, “with Active Math, teaching is no longer about speaking or seeking multiple techniques to pack tons of information into students’ heads. We are now like coaches who guide and support students while building their knowledge through activities. Therefore, the most important skill teachers need to gain is being open to various kinds of students’ ideas.”