Maths and Science come alive with newspapers



WHY USE only textbooks when there is excellent supplementary material like the newspaper with abundant news of cutting edge technology, mathematical data and social studies? 

UK-based NiE (Newspaper in Education) consultant George Kelly told a group of Mathematics, Science and English teachers on Friday that newspapers are an important classroom resource that teachers should not overlook. 

He showed these participants at the Train the trainer workshop at Menara Star that even learning maths and science could be “fun and exciting” using the versatile content found in newspapers. 

Sparking off creative ideas to conduct lessons using The Star, Kelly demonstrated how the “real-world” could be brought into the classroom. 

“Remember, it's a newspaper, not a common textbook. Students become more interested in the subjects when they can relate what they learn to their daily life,” he said during the half-day workshop held in conjunction with Star-NiE's sixth anniversary.  

More than 30 teachers from all over the country were invited to attend Kelly's workshops which gave them an insight into how the newspaper could be used to teach maths and science and how activities could be modified to teach various levels. 

In the lively activity packed workshop, teachers went on a “Maths Trail” – hunting for the largest number and highest percentage in the newspaper, among other things. 

A crowd favourite was an activity where participants had to find pictures or advertisements demonstrating maths and science being used in daily life – from calculating how much petrol is needed for the car to understanding the scientific reasoning behind perfumes. 

Lessons come alive with NIE trainer George Kelly.

Teachers were also challenged to build the tallest standing tower with only four pieces of newspaper and some cellotape. 

“The idea was very innovative as it involved both maths and science to make sure the tower would not collapse,” said SM Sri KL science teacher Han Wei Kwan, adding that she would definitely incorporate the activity into one of her lessons at school. 

Kelly also emphasised the importance of newspaper advertisements as a useful teaching tool. 

“There are huge amounts of numerical data in ads and students can conduct mathematical comparisons such as which products are cheaper or more economical. 

“In the context of science, teachers can use ads to explain cutting edge technology such as digital cameras and blue enzymes in washing powder,” he said. 

Science teacher Norlida Nordin said she would use newspaper reports and feature articles to explain various scientific concepts. 

In another activity, Kelly asked: “Imagine you were given the opportunity to live in a spacecraft for five years. What would be your essential needs and other items you would like to bring along?” 

In response to the “thought-provoking” question, teachers listed food, water and clothing as essentials while their wish list included boyfriend/hubby, books, and the Great Wall of China (to locate and get back to earth). 

“Such activities will liven up the classroom and students would probably be more interested in the subjects,” said SMK Bandar Sunway teacher Elizabeth Lopez. 

English teacher Nirmala Ramakrishnan from SMK Ideal Heights said the workshop gave her new ideas in using the newspaper as a teaching tool. 

“The newspaper has current updates on issues that are not available in textbooks. I am even using it to teach Moral Education,” she said. 

The workshop was timely for her colleagues Fatimah Othman and Suraya Md Ali who had just completed Phase Two of the ETeMS (English for the teaching for Mathematics and Science) course conducted by the education department last month.  

“A module in the course actually requires students to use newspapers in seeking for information. This workshop gives us a better idea on how to conduct a successful lesson,” said Fatimah, adding that it would be her first time using the newspaper to teach Science. 

Coming all the way from Kedah, teachers Anna Cherubin and Foo Kim Hwa said they enjoyed the workshop, as it was “an eye-opener.” 

Said Anna: “Students have a phobia about textbooks and do not like lugging them to school because of their weight. 

Newspapers seem to be a good alternative not only because they are light but also because most students are attracted to parts of the content. It will be easier to get them to open it.” 

In conjunction with Star-NiE's anniversary celebrations, four one-day workshops will be held in Petaling Jaya and Penang next week to thank teachers who have been supporting Star-NiE. All 450 places for the workshops have been filled. 

The workshops will be held at Sheraton Subang Hotel and Towers, Subang Jaya, tomorrow and Tuesday from 9am to 5pm, and at Shangri-La's Golden Sands Resort, Penang, on Thurday and Friday. 

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