Motivational Mathematics

New book looks at improving maths engagement by situating it in an everyday context.
Jul 21, 2022
How to improve maths engagement and change attitudes.

Researchers’ and educators’ collective effort of motivating, engaging, attracting, and entertaining students so they continue to study mathematics has been ongoing, yet the issue of student dis/engagement in mathematics continues to challenge educators globally.

To improve students’ long-term commitment to mathematics, Dr Laura Tuohilampi from UNSW’s School of Education suggests paying attention to the quality of engagement. The difficulty of making mathematics appealing (see Beswick, Faragher, & Sullivan 2021; Nyman, 2020; Martin, Anderson, Bobis, Way & Vellar, 2012), has underpinned Tuohilampi’s mission to find practical ways to help students find joy with mathematics.

Tuohilampi is a multi-award-winning mathematics education researcher, a teacher trainer and the founder of Math Hunger and Maths for Humans. Currently, she is a research fellow and lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Her first book, published in Finnish, kick-started a global movement to make mathematics a mainstream, enjoyable activity. Her second book and first international publication, Seriously Fun Maths, is about to hit educators' desks around Australia.

Tuohilampi’s mission is to re-visualise and re-normalise maths. Her passion for this cause comes from having seen how changes in a personal narrative can be transformative, from a student thinking they’re hopeless with maths to finding confidence to pursue a maths-related career.

Tuohilampi draws from research showing it’s never too late and that many children have potential that may not be fulfilled because of dominating, narrow mathematics teaching practices.

Some feedback about the new book included:

“After having seen you using calculating strategies in a workout video, discussing volume and capacity when filling in an ottoman, or explaining how using combinatorics can reduce the switches in your heater, you simply can’t see mathematics as an intimidating black hole that is difficult to reach. You see it as something very simple that fascinates everyone."

“You assure the public that starting early and never failing is not the only way to stay on track with maths. You show that to know mathematics, you don’t have to have certain features or a certain look, you don’t have to be the ‘maths person’. You decrease the stigma of knowing maths as being something weird or special or alienating, you make it feel so normal to talk maths everywhere, solve maths problems even in a pub and get empowered by what you naturally know.”

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