Nikki Lineham has developed a new way of teaching math. And now the Cedar Hill middle school teacher is watching her idea multiply across the Greater Victoria School District.
Lineham has been working for the past five years on the development of Educating Now, a system that takes the text-driven lesson plans teachers have used for decades and puts it into a video format that includes hints on the language and methods that have the greatest impact on students.
She says the technological changes happening across the globe means simply learning procedures and memorizing information is no longer enough.
“They need to understand how it works so they can apply it to novel situations,” said the Saanich resident, adding our learning tools are no longer limited to just pen and paper.
“We need them to be thinkers and problem solvers and to actually understand and be able to create and actually be like mathematicians and not be like calculators, because we have calculators.”
School District 61 has now purchased a site licence for Educating Now to bring Lineham’s method to schools across Greater Victoria. The collaborative initiative with the Greater Victoria Teachers Association was part of an investment of more than $500,000 by the school district in numeracy and science resources.
“Education assistants, teachers and administrators across the district now have access to the videos and resources,” said Lineham.
It’s a system that Lineham has been using herself for the past 10 years – taking a more visual and hands-on approach to solving math problems.
“It’s because of the way our brain learns things. In order for something to go into long-term memory it needs to be meaningful, which means there needs to be some form of engagement. As soon as you gets kids more active and get their hands on things, they’re immediately more engaged. But more importantly they have to understand it.”
Lineham points to the troubling trend that so many Grade 8 students have difficulty in doing subtraction equations properly, saying understanding the procedure is key for students to be able to retain the knowledge.
“That whole idea of we’ll get them to practise and practise and practise, that’s not the way our brain works.”
Lineham developed the program along with her brother Lou Douillard, who also lives in Saanich, which now includes close to 75 videos, primarily focused on Grades 6 to 8. “I started with middle school because that’s my wheelhouse,” said Lineham, adding Educating Now will be expanding to other grades as she looks to bring on additional school districts.
Lineham’s passion for math was on display this summer when she gave a TEDx Talk at Royal Roads University on busting the math myth.
“Our society believes there’s such a thing as a math brain, and some of us have it and some of us don’t. And actually, there’s not.”
Linehan uses the example of how people will often talk about how they don’t understand math.
“It’s a bragging right in our culture. No one brags about being illiterate.”
And that is something she is committed to changing.
“I feel like numeracy is the ugly second cousin to literacy, it never gets any attention,” she said. “My mission in life is to change the way we teach, talk and think about mathematics, so that it’s accessible for all people.”