Issues in teaching Mathematics

I1malaysian Malaysia, we could not really avoid having diversity in the classroom as the citizens are made up from Malays, Chinese, Indians and other minorities. Multicultural environment in education has its advantages and disadvantages. However, the focus of this reflection would be on the issues in teaching Mathematics from the perspective of multiculturalism. In my opinion, there would be three main issues in teaching diversity, namely the biasness, language problem and culture shock.

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Firstly, it is undeniable that most of the people have stereotypes towards certain races, even I am one of them. It is strange that we would have certain ideas associate with certain races. For example, I do not know why but I just heard people around me have been saying that Malays are not good in Mathematics and Chinese always do well in Mathematics since young. Until now I still have this conception that Malays are not good in Mathematics, as I went to the mamak stall,I have noticed that they use calculator to count whereas the Chinese would use mental strategy to count. Also, I have experienced  a few times when the Malays count the money wrong which deepen my stereotype towards them. As a result, the teacher might have the same stereotype as me, and it would probably affect the expectation he or she has towards certain ethics. When the expectation is different, the teacher might prepare different learning materials for students from different cultures, teach differently or put less focus on them in teaching Mathematics as they think that they are not good, so they might leave them alone. It is common in my high school, my teachers used to leave the students behind just because they are weak in the subjects and also mainly because they themselves refused to learn. On the other hand, when teacher has biasness about multicultural students, they could favor students who have the same race as he or she. So, inequality exists which will affect the teachers’ attitude in teaching the students. Same as the stereotypes which will bring the similar outcomes if the teachers have biasness among students with different races. I totally have biasness towards certain races, but I also realize that it would not help me to become a better teacher. Thus, like the picture shown on the right side, I have to stop bias. Although I could not make sure whether I can do it but I must and should try to be fair. Hence, this is the first issue that I think of in teaching Mathematics in multicultural environment.

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Moreover, when it comes to different races or cultures, language could not run away from it. Different races have their own language which make them unique from one another. Consequently, it would be a big issue in teaching Mathematics as students are exposed to their own languages, especially when the medium is in English, they will have language issue in understanding and therefore struggle in learning. Just like the pictures shown above, everyone speaks their own language and they would have to switch to English as medium for learning. For instance, based on my observation in Taylor’s International School Kuala Lumpur, there is one Indian boy who could not understand English and he has limited vocabulary which makes him hard to communicate with the teachers and peers. So, the class teacher has to send him to the learning support center and segregated from his classmates when he has not reach the proficiency in English. With that, I think that it is difficult for students to learn and for teachers to teach if they do not understand the language and effective learning and teaching would not take place too. As another example, my first language is Mandarin, but when I started learning Mathematics in English after 6 years of Mandarin as a medium, it took me times to adapt to the change and I lost my motivation to learn. For me, it was totally a nightmare during that time because I have to start learning Mathematics from the basic again. What is worse is that if there is no learning support teacher who specializes in teaching English for native speakers, the teacher would have difficulty in teaching because he or she has to take care of the majorities and also consider the minorities at the same time. I think that it is one of the hardest thing because differentiated instruction is needed and sometimes it can be quite frustrating when the students could not understand the language. Frankly, I am learning to appreciate individuality and try to be more patient in my later teaching because I can understand how they feel when the language is not their major.

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Last but not least, culture shock is also one of the common issues that would arise when teaching in multicultural environment. Although it is temporary, but when students from different background and carry different beliefs are in the same classroom, all the differences might seem odd for them. For instance, the things they talk about, the ways they express themselves, and the importance of various ideas may be very different from what others are used to. When explaining the concept of Mathematics and giving the examples, teachers have to be very careful of the examples they use. If the teachers give an example about the Chinese culture, the Malays and Indians might feel uncomfortable and have less understanding about it. I think that it can also lead to demotivation as they do not understand the whole thing. Thus, they would not have interest in learning Mathematics. Other than that, the way Chinese learn Mathematics can be different from the way Malays learn Mathematics. So when it comes to an integrated situation, the teacher has to think about how to teach so that it can best  fit for every student. In my opinion, it is kind of hard because every teacher has their teaching style, if teacher is used to teach this way, it would be hard for them to change to another way of teaching.

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Students should be treated the same and given equal accessibility regardless of cultures and races.

In conclusion, a lot of issues might be faced by the teachers even if there is no diversity in the classroom such as misbehavior and learning needs, what on top is that if there is multicultural environment. I think that teachers need to be aware of different cultures and make sure that everyone is given equal accessibility to learn. Although it might be difficult to teach, but as a teacher we have believe that everyone is teachable, and there is nothing to do with their cultures. At last, being a teacher is not a simple job as my mentor for school placement told me that we would have a lot of challenges to face and would have to solve them. Although I am not the kind of person who likes challenges, but life is not always easy, therefore I keep her advice in mind that when you have accomplished something, you feel satisfied and that is what move you forward.

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