When I began teaching Mathematics in high school in the mid-1960s, the teaching pedagogue was what was called “chalk and talk”. There was little attempt by traditional Maths teachers to use any other teaching approach. I must admit that I was primary trained learning to teach the whole variety of subjects to my class. This continued with my transfer to a high school. There I taught a number of general subjects-English, Science, History, and Geography as well as Mathematics. So my range of teaching strategies was extensive.
Mathematics in high school is normally a compulsory subject. Many Students can not see its relevance to their life or see it as too hard, especially when the “boogie man”, Algebra, comes on the scene. So, in order to gains the attention of all my class, I used a variety of approaches including quizzes, radio and television as well as films. This brings me to the Walt Disney film, “Donald in Mathmagic Land”.
I discover it by chance looking a catalogue of films available to use in your Maths classes. I decided to borrow it from the state film library to use with my first year high school classes. I didn’t know quite what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise and exactly what I needed to show my classes the relevance of Mathematics to their life and how much Mathematics contributed to life as they knew it. Here is a summary of the film which can be found on YouTube.
Donald’s goes on an adventure in which it is explained how mathematics can be useful in real life. Through this journey it is shown how numbers are more than graphs and charts, they are geometry, music and magical living things
There are so many ideas in the film that you miss many of them when you first see the film. So often, when I was able to borrow the film, I would show it a second time indicating to my classes what they needed to watch for. The film was excellent as a motivating force. So I encouraged fellow teachers to show it to their classes early in the school year. When I became the head of a Mathematics department during the mid-1980s, I tracked down the film and was able to buy a cassette tape of the film to add to my school’s Mathematics resource centre.
The film demonstrates many ideas pictorially that the teacher can only explain verbally making it easy for the students to understand the concepts and see their relevance to everyday life.
The most interesting development for me as a teacher was it motivated me to make the teaching of Mathematics as exciting as I could and it enlarged my understanding of the contribution Mathematics makes to our human society. It also showed my students and I the beauty of Mathematics. In fact, when a problem I did on the board came out that the students did not expect, especially in Algebra, my comment to the class was “Mathematics is beautiful”.
I used this film in my junior high school classes from year eight to year ten. I’m sure it could be used in earlier years when students’ interest in Mathematics begins to wane. It is my belief that every school should have a copy of this film and ensure that all students see the film at least once in their school career.