FUSE trustee: Math is a language, an art

by / Tuesday, 25 August 2015 / Published in Articles

“When you teach math, don’t confine yourself to math. Math is both a
language and an art. It’s about awareness, structural thinking and
study of logic.”

Milagros D. Ibe, a noted teacher-educator in mathematics education,
said the “old rules” were anchored on memorization and urged teachers
under the K-12 program to give “space” to students so they can make
their choices and alternatives at arriving at math solutions.”

“I don’t like giving rules. However, students must learn to analyze
and understand math problems,” Ibe, a UP professor and former dean of
Graduate School of Miriam College, told the March general assembly of
the Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education (FUSE). “The
old curriculum is dedicated to solutions, while the new curriculum
under the K-12 is focused on doing, seeing and reflecting on critical

The 83-year-old Ibe, who has been teaching math and science since
1952, said unless teachers accept math as a language, they will never
be ready for the subject. “It’s a language of symbols with visual aids
and patterns. There has to be a method at arriving at answers other
than memorization.”

Ibe, herself a FUSE trustee, added: I am not suggesting we replace the
principles. I just want math to be appreciated and not to be hated.”

She observed that most of the errors in math were due to
mispronounciation. “When you say one-eight,for example, pronounce it
properly or even exaggerate it so your students will clearly
understand you. As I said, math is a language. Proper pronounciation
or the lack of it causes some students to fail the subject.”

During the open forum of the monthly assembly held at the FUSE
headquarters on Roxas Blvd., Manila, which was mostly attended by
teachers and educators from public and private schools, Sister
Iluminada Coronel of the Mathematics Teachers Association of the
Philippines pointed out that the problem also lies on teachers who
don’t know how to teach the subject.

“The teachers, themselves, don’t understand the subject matter they
are teaching,” she lamented. “Our problems are much more basic. We
must make sure the teachers know what they are teaching.”

The country has lagged behind the rest of the world in math and
science education as shown by the dismal scores of Filipino students
in global tests. A global survey ranks the Philippines 115th out of
142 countries in perceived quality of math and science education.
Singapore tops the list.

The K-12 program aims, among others, to correct this shortcoming as
one of the goals of the math and science curriculum is to develop the
critical and analytical thinking skills of students, an objective
shared by Ibe and other Filipino math experts.