Must Math Be So Hard?

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

I think we can all agree. Math is hard for many students. But does it have to be this way?

Math becomes difficult when the symbols on the page no longer have meaning for students — when the syntax and the semantics diverge.

Most kids have no trouble understanding that 4 means four and that + means addition. These things have clear real-world counterparts. But when x’s and y’s appear on the scene alongside symbols like √ and ∏ and ∫, it’s understandable that students lose their bearings. These things don’t have obvious real-world references.

But these symbols DO have meaning. It just needs to be made real for students. Students need to SEE what these symbols mean. Moreover, they need to PLAY with them.

At Phenomena, we believe that DOING, SEEING and PLAYING are critical parts of developing intuition and understanding in mathematics.

Here are a few examples from our library that let students DO and SEE and PLAY. Try them out. We think you’ll SEE what we mean.

Systems of Linear Equations

This experience addresses a relatively complex topic in high school algebra — systems of linear equations. We make it simple by offering three ways to SEE the system: in picture form, as a line graph, and as a standard equation. All three work together to paint a full picture.

Try it out

Intro to Trigonometry

Ask any engineer which bit of math is the most useful and they’ll say trigonometry. Unfortunately, trig is rarely taught well in schools. To really understand this trigonometry, you need to SEE it and you need to PLAY with it. And that’s what this experience is all about.

Try it out

Integration Made Simple

We gave ourselves a challenge. Could we make integration approachable? We begin by asking the student to draw a curve. Then we compute the area as a Reimann sum, letting students set the number of divisions. By allowing students to PLAY with the number of divisions, the concept of integration becomes much more tangible. Try it out

PLAY with these and many other interactive STEM experiences at www.phenomena.app. We’d love to hear your thoughts and the thoughts of students as well.

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Jared Schiffman is the Founder of Phenomena, an edtech startup focused on experiential learning. See Phenomena’s digital experiences at www.phenomena.app.

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Jared Schiffman

Jared Schiffman

Jared Schiffman is the Founder of Phenomena, an edtech startup focused on experiential learning. See Phenomena’s digital experiences at www.phenomena.app.

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