A Human-centred Approach to Secondary Maths

Learnlife's human-centred approach to secondary maths transforms the conventional classroom paradigm into a dynamic, personalised and purposeful learning adventure.
A Human-centred Approach to Secondary Maths

At Learnlife, the cornerstone is a human-centred approach to learning, prioritising each learner's capacity, interests, and passions.

In the video below, Learning Guide and Urban Hub Numeracy Lead Adrí Balcázar shares how secondary maths is taught at the Urban Hub.

He discusses how our human-centred learning philosophy is seamlessly integrated into mathematics education, where numeracy concepts are interwoven with real-life scenarios and transdisciplinary projects.

From supermarket excursions to exploring the golden ratio through artistic expression, the emphasis is on contextualising mathematical understanding, making it purposeful, practical and relevant to each learner's unique journey.

You can read the transcript below.

The approach to learning is first and foremost human-centred around the learner, their capacity, interests and passions. That's what's at the core. And at the same time, one key thing is whatever we're learning, we're learning how to learn. 

So a piece of it is always some metacognition, developing learning skills, learning strategies, trying different methodologies, seeing what works, what's best for each learner, in which ways they can develop their own processes, ways and techniques to learn. 

We tackle numeracy as part of life, as part of the world, as part of what we do. So many numeracy concepts, elements, pieces of mathematics are developed together with history or with science or with language, wherever they fit, in terms of disciplinary arguments. 

For example, we've had the islands project with the Explorers. They learned and developed things about government and structure in society. They learned about science, climate, how one island has different biomes, diversity, the impacts of rainstorms and whatnot. And they worked on resources, budgeting, internal economics of an island, or a society, or a situation. 

So whether it is in some of the sessions that are math only, or some of the sessions that are transdisciplinary projects, we're always working with reality. We're always getting the learners out there into the world as much as we can and whatever we bring in is something that's current, that's part of their lives, or is something they can see being part of their life very soon. 

This means when we were working on percentages, we went to the supermarket to calculate the value of discounts, and we actually figured out what was the best value product to get based on that. That allows them to contextualise the learning, to realise the purpose and the value of the learning, to practise it in an environment that feels real, that feels authentic.

But there's also the Math Dojo, which is an open mathematical space for everyone to learn and practise. I have learners who come into Math Dojo, and they just learn new concepts, practise those concepts, ask me for help whenever they get stuck and continue to develop vast math knowledge. 

We do make sure that all of our day-to-day activities that include math are very real and life-related. So they're contextualised in a way that they understand what's the point, they understand what's the purpose. It's about understanding basic economics, understanding how to redesign your room, your floor plan, your measurements. 

So, for example, a learner who wanted to do something artistic but math-related, we started looking at the golden ratio, we started looking at the work of Escher, who was a fantastic geometrist and a fabulous artist, and this learner started producing works of geometry and symmetries.

There was artistic work and felt really really rewarding, but at the same time developing the mathematical concepts along the way. He was so proud of it, it was the piece he decided to show at the showcase. 

So we put together curricula from four or five different countries and created our own scope and sequence. And this scope and sequence aims at guaranteeing that all learners will leave with all the mathematical skills that they need in order to thrive and live fulfilling purposeful lives. 

One key difference with many other schools is that we don't necessarily pace all learners by age at the same rhythm. So, we always have different groups, and there's always the matter of the space where the learners accelerate, learners cover things that many of their peers have done in the past, but they haven't. 

And it's always, what do you need in your math right now, what's going to get you engaged, what's going to feel useful. It's not: you're fast, you're slow. We don't talk in those terms, and we don't compare.

We just figure out where you are at and what's next. And I've noticed learners don't care too much about comparing themselves to each other if you don't start doing that for them.

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