Ian Whiteman teaching math

30 minutes in a classroom-mathematics

Grade eleven Development Associate (Journalism), Prasanna Bista, has not been in a grade six classroom for quite a while. In his on-going series, 30 minutes in a classroom, he visits grade six for a refresher on equations and is amazed at how they are both taught and understood at Woodstock today

Up a flight of stairs above the Quad band room and straight down the corridor to the left lies a room that is recognised by all grade six students as the math and science room. Every morning before lunchtime, grade six students develop their math skills here for the years to come. It is neither worry nor anxiety that fills the room but rather curiosity and a strong willingness to learn. Students pounce at each question asked by the teacher who has an array of hands to pick from. For the students there is no fear of a wrong answer, as they realise that it is through trying that the right answer is finally attained. They are constantly motivated due to the encouragement and humour their teacher provides. Through the collaboration of both the students and the teacher, the class works as a single unit that seeks knowledge.

"They are enthusiastic, they want to learn, they are prepared to try something and they are honest if they don't understand it," says Mr Ian Whiteman, a junior school math teacher. Mr Whiteman, who taught in Australia for more than 30 years, believes his students in Woodstock have immense potential.

"There are students from many different backgrounds gaining and sharing knowledge," he says. Students from Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, India, England, Korea and America can be identified in his classroom. The diversity in culture and the different learning styles of the students gives the classroom a truly international environment. Students of the same mother-tongue as well as those of other languages help each other in understanding the concepts and solving difficult equations.

It is Mr Whiteman's second year as the math teacher for grade six students in Woodstock. "I think the biggest change in the math class is the depth of work we cover. Textbooks are resources but real learning goes way beyond what's inside the book and that is what we achieve in this classroom on a daily basis," he said. Mr Whiteman also teaches RE and Science and this has helped his students become familiar with their topic and at ease with their teacher. He constantly advises his students to figure out their own method of solving a problem. "I like to be able to tell students that there is more than one way to do things, if there is another way that's great," he says. He also believes that learning is not only limited to students. "I am learning from them as well," he adds. For Mr Whiteman, the transition to Woodstock has been a positive one. "The students here really want to learn and there is very little interruption in class."

Under the guidance of Mr Whiteman, future leaders and mathematicians of Woodstock currently learn their basics. Math is no more a subject filled with equations, but instead he creates a "work of art". Through it students are able to express creativity while graphing, colouring and drawing. Due to their education today, these children will be well prepared for their future, where a mix of curiosity, interest and involvement promises success in math amongst many other fields.

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