PISA and TIMSS serve as crucial benchmarks for evaluating a country’s mathematical education standards. These benchmarks play a pivotal role in identifying necessary interventions and strategies to enhance the quality of education in Malaysia, encompassing academics, curriculum development, and teaching and learning (TnL) methodologies.
In line with Malaysia’s pursuit of global education excellence, the mathematics curriculum has evolved significantly, now encompassing the Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah (KSSM), Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR), and Kurikulum Standard Pra Sekolah (KSPK). These advancements necessitate a shift away from traditional rote learning practices towards fostering meaningful mathematical comprehension among students.
Figure 1: MT & PS characteristics
One key factor contributing to students’ proficiency in mathematics is their ability to think mathematically and effectively solve problems (MT & PS). These cognitive skills encompass critical attributes such as analysis, reasoning, problem-solving, and the capacity to communicate fundamental mathematical concepts. Additionally, MT & PS encompass essential elements like specialization, generalization, conjecture, persuasion, characterization, classification, critique, and improvement (Jackson, 2021), as depicted in Figure 1.
To equip teachers for effective instruction in the new curriculum, it is imperative to provide training in MT & PS. In this collaborative effort between the Center for Educational Excellence (CEE) and the Faculty of Education (FP), initiatives have been taken to raise awareness and competence among secondary school teachers. Notably, AP Dr. Yudariah Yusof, AP Dr. Norma Alias, Prof. Zaleha Ismail, and Dr. Norulhuda Ismail conducted a one-day MT & PS training program for 125 secondary mathematics teachers from 49 schools in Johor Bahru on June 24, 2023. Subsequently, CEE and FP will host a similar one-day MT & PS training session for 127 mathematics teachers from 50 secondary schools in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, on July 8, 2023.
The collaboration between CEE and FP in organizing MT & PS training programs at Johor Bahru, Johor
The collaboration between CEE and FP in organizing MT & PS training programs at Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
125 secondary mathematics teachers from 49 schools in Johor Bahru on 24th June 2023.
127 mathematics teachers from 50 schools in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan on 8th July 2023.
This comprehensive training comprises three essential components: instilling belief in mathematical thinking, imparting problem-solving strategies, and providing rationale for solutions. Teachers are encountering new challenges as they transition away from teacher-centered approaches. They are now tasked with solving unfamiliar mathematical problems and guiding students through the problem-solving process, which can be particularly challenging. The transition to address the intricate problem-solving demands presented by the new curriculum (KSSM, KSSR, and KSPK) is a shared journey for both students and teachers.
In conclusion, the enthusiastic response to MT & PS training is a promising sign for the future of mathematics education in Malaysia. Surveys indicate that 80% of teachers understand the essence of mathematical thinking, while 70% recognize the value of professional learning communities in Mathematics, facilitating the exchange of expertise and experiences. The histogram below illustrates that most teachers are in favor of adopting MT & PS approaches to cultivate thinking skills and promote meaningful learning in mathematics.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Norma Binti Alias
Associate Fellow, Centre for Engineering Education