It has being noted that teaching mathematics to liberal arts students is a major problem. This has being caused by poor teaching motivation methods embraced by their teachers. These students have negative attitude towards the subject and often excels poorly in this subject. Therefore there is a great need for the teaching profession to find effective ways they can motivate their students in mathematics to reinforce these students interests in mathematics to improve their mathematics performances. This can well be achieved if some mathematical courses are introduced in liberal arts. This will help greatly these group of students to acquire the fundamental mathematics concepts that of great importance in their day to day lives. This will allow the liberal arts students being well prepared in this subject to develop a positive attitude towards the subject that will yield to excellence performances in mathematics. (LeGere1991).This can be achieved through: (1)Relating mathematics to contemporary significant issues; (2) Employing projects and open- ended problems;
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According to Schwartz 1992, the greatest problem area in mathematics education today is effectively teaching liberal arts/non-science majors. These students generally are poorly prepared in mathematics and have negative attitudes about the subject. Every teacher of liberal arts mathematics courses has probably heard students ask questions such as, “Why do I need to learn this mathematics?”, “When will I ever use this material?”, and “What connections are there between this mathematics and my life?” Traditionally, liberal arts/non-science mathematics courses have had a set of unrelated topics, such as set theory, logic, probability and statistics, and number theory. Recently, modern topics, such as management theory, social choice, and elementary computer applications have replaced some of the older topics. Generally, these courses have been taught by the typical lecture-discussion method.
The lack of coherence between topics, the perceived irrelevance of the material, and the scarcity of opportunities for student involvement often result in apathetic classes. Classes are typically large, for budgetary reasons, and this contributes to the problem. Since the students need the course only to fulfill a graduation requirement and not as a prerequisite for any other course, they usually try to obtain a satisfactory grade with a minimum of effort. As a result teachers are often reluctant to teach such courses. Students generally end the course with their negative feelings reinforced, thankful that they will never again be expected to do any mathematics. To remove this problem and stimulate liberal students to perform well in mathematics effective teaching methodologies are needed.(Herbert1980)
Teachers should relate mathematics to prevailing important issues while teaching liberal arts. This is although the non-science students are often opposed to to mathematics, they are generally apprehensive with environmental and other social issues. Hence, their interest can be stimulated by a course that relates fundamental mathematical concepts and exercises to such important current issues as population growth, resource scarcity, international relations, hunger, the arms race, health concerns, such as AIDS and nutrition, and a wide variety of environmental issues, including air and water pollution, acid precipitation, ozone layer depletion, destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, potential global warming, and soil erosion and depletion.
Therefore mathematical courses that involve exercises that use real- world data connected to issues that evident on every day life. It can be a very positive move for motivating these in mathematics. The mathematics course should encompass the use of significant data such as data on ecological issues to add to class interest, the course can be related to current newspaper and magazine articles and TV and radio reports and programs. Use of news reports concerning international matter shows the students the significance of their erudition. The course can also be related to events such as Earth Day (an annual event in many countries), and U. N. conferences related to population, hunger, ecology, resources, refugees, and the arms race. The many news reports about these conferences provide an abundance of data that can be converted into mathematical exercises. Films, videotapes, and slide shows can also be used to broaden coverage of issues. (Johnson1983)
There are many sources for mathematical exercises related to current issues. In addition to the graphs, charts, and statistics in daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines, groups concerned about global threats are excellent sources of material. For example, the Population Reference Bureau produces an annual World Population Data Sheet which contains statistics for the worlds nations and regions for birth and death rates, per capita GNPs (gross national products), population doubling times, infant mortality rates, and other demographic data, that can be used for problems on ratios, percents, averages, and correlations, and for the construction of various graphs and charts. The annual Statistical Abstract of the United States also provides a variety of graphs and charts from which many mathematical exercises can be constructed. Material on particular countries can be obtained from their ministries. (Gross 1993)
Of late there have been increased published materials that offer data, charts, and graphs that can be extremely supportive for generating mathematical paradigm and models in liberal arts teaching. These materials ranges from the annual editions of The State of the World and Vital Signs, both produced by the World Watch Institute, the annual Earth Journal, produced by Buzzword Magazine, and the annual Information Please Environmental Almanac, produced by the World Resources Institute.
By employing such teaching resources in liberal arts teaching will greatly improve the attitude of these students on mathematics that will result to good performances. For instance when teaching the relation ship of high population effects on national resources. Teachers can give the learners some touchable basic mathematical examples such calculating determining how many squire feet of rain forests are destroyed to produce a half pound hamburger. Also the teacher should assists the learners to see the energy consumption of their countries by drawing line graphs using data from statistics from appropriate sites. The use of this real examples in teaching the liberal arts mathematics will help them to create a positive attitude towards the subject since they will anxious to know quantitatively impacts of what they learn in their day to day lives. Thus leading to good mathematics performances for this group of students. (George 1977, 45)
Use of projects and open-ended problems linking mathematics to ecological issues provides many opportunities for open-ended problems and projects. This can entail asking students to gather data from surveys they have organized and carried to carry some calculations, draw graphs. The data can either be that of the population of people in a certain market or the population of people who are benefiting from relief food from a specific place. (Brown 1998, 199).I recommends teachers who teach mathematics to liberal arts to try these teaching strategies and test how the performances of their students will greatly improve.
Brown, L. (Ed.): State of the World 1998. – New York: W. W. Norton.
George, R.: The Mathematics of the Energy Crisis. – Westmond, N. J: Intergalactic, 1977.
Gross, F.: The Power of Numbers: A Teacher’s Guide to Mathematics in a Social Science Context. – Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility, 1993.
Herbert, L.; Ferleger, L.: Statistics for Social Change. – Boston: South End Press, 1980.
Johnson, M.: Writing in Mathematics Classes: A Valuable Tool for Learning. – In: Mathematics Teacher 76 (1983).
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Schwartz, R. H.: Revitalizing Liberal Arts Mathematics. – In: Mathematics and Computer Education Journal (1992).
- LeGere, A.: Collaboration and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom. – In: Mathematics Teacher (1991).
- Schoenfeld,A. (Ed.): A Source Book for College Mathematics Teaching. – The Mathematics Association of America, Washington, D. C. , 1990.
- Schwartz, R. H.: Population, Tree-Diagrams and Infinite Series. – In: UMAP Consortium Newsletter (1992).
- Schwartz, R. H.: Mathematics and Global Survival. – Needham Heights, MA: Ginn Press, 1998 (4th edition).