Mr. Panny Chan, Mathematics Teacher – Resolving the Fear of Mathematics by Attending to Emotions
Mr. Panny Chan (also known as Chan Sir) is into his tenth year at Pathways. With a total student service count of over 200, Chan Sir is one of Pathways’ most experienced mathematics teacher.
Back then, following the reform of the local education policy, the administrative workload of full-time day-school teachers became very heavy. Chan Sir, however, wanted to keep his focus on teaching students. So when he came upon the opportunity of working at Pathways’ for its After School Support Programme, he took the offer, and has been teaching students with dyslexia until today.
As classes in Pathways are mostly in small groups or even individual-based, Chan Sir can design individualized teaching plans to suit each student’s pace of learning. When a new student joins, Chan Sir will start by establishing a mutual friendship. He will observe closely and communicate often with the student during class, so as to understand whether the student’s numeracy difficulty is due simply to a weak memory, or if it is a problem with number sense. Sometimes Chan Sir also pays attention to the emotions of the student, identifying the reason behind the fear or dislike of mathematics, so that the correct intervention method can be applied.
“Students with dyslexia are usually also less confident and lacking in social skills. That is why it is very important to understand their feelings. Once there was a student whose parents consistently urged him to do mathematical exercises. This led to his dislike and refusal to learn mathematics. When I come across students who have poor learning motivation, I try to teach them through games, hoping that they slowly grow to like the subject. Only by increasing their motivation to learn can marked improvements become evident, and this process takes time,” Chan Sir explained.
Among his students, Chan Sir finds most impressive a girl who has been his student for almost seven years. She came to Pathways when she was in Primary 2. She was disengaged in class, and reluctant to do any math exercises. Chan Sir used different multi-sensory methods to arouse her interest in the subject, which facilitated her understanding of the mathematical concepts. Her grades at school gradually improved; she came second in the whole grade when she graduated from primary school, and remained among the top students in secondary school. Teacher and student are like friends now, and every class is a happy experience.
Through his many encounters with students with dyslexia, Chan Sir discovered that it is very important to identify and support children with the difficulty as early as possible. “Parents should pay attention to their child’s learning starting from lower primary school, or even before that. Generally speaking, if a child has difficulty counting numbers or skipping over numbers at pre-school stage, parents may want to have screening tests done to identify whether the child is at risk of dyslexia, as this may cause the child to have numeracy difficulty,” he said.
He explained, “The thinking pattern of younger students is not fixed yet, so they are more open to new concepts. This helps to make learning efficiency more apparent than in older students, and effect from the appropriate intervention support will come even sooner!”