Study reveals 80 per cent of Math teachers lack conceptual understanding

Among other shocking findings, the study highlighted that 75% of the teachers struggled to answer 50% of the questions correctly.
Representative image
Representative image

BENGALURU: Understanding mathematical concepts is critical for students to aid their problem-solving skills and build a strong analytical foundation. However, a recent study revealed that teachers lack proficiency in the very subjects they are tasked with teaching. Close to 80% of teachers assessed failed to answer questions on concepts such as ratio, proportional reasoning, algebraic as well as logical reasoning and estimation, which educational experts consider crucial.

The two-and-a-half-year study was conducted by Educational Initiatives (Ei) -- a Bengaluru-based pedagogical research and solution firm with 1,357 teachers across 152 schools in India, including Karnataka, UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. As part of the research, teachers undertook the TIPS (Teacher Impact Programmes) - Math subject knowledge - Level 1 assessment, which not only measures teachers’ subject and pedagogical knowledge, but also shares detailed reports with the test-takers and school principals including the strong and weak areas and misconceptions. Among those who appeared for the assessment, 80% of the teachers were from India, 18% from UAE and 1% each from Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Among other shocking findings, the study highlighted that 75% of the teachers struggled to answer 50% of the questions correctly. Only 339 could accurately answer 25% questions asked. While 73.3% of the teachers answered Class 4 questions correctly, only 36.7% could answer the questions based on Class 7 topics. Teachers who teach Classes 3 to 6 were assessed on 40 questions on relevant concepts.

Sridhar Rajagopalan, Co-founder and Chief Learning Officer (CLO) of Ei, said, “This study serves as a wake-up call for our education system, which has long prioritised rote learning, leading to deep-rooted academic misconceptions passed down through generations of learners.”

What was alarming is that the misconceptions found in the teachers were almost equal to those of students, when Ei presented the same questions to students. “This parallel between teacher and student misconceptions is particularly alarming, suggesting a cyclical challenge in mathematical education where errors may be perpetuated through generations of learners,” reads the paper coauthored by Praveena Katragadda and Nishchal Shukla.

Shukla, Vice-President, Content Development and Pedagogical Research, said the implications of these misconceptions are far-reaching and not only hinder students’ ability to grasp fundamental concepts, but also underscore a systemic issue within the education landscape.

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