Photo Credit: MOE - Ms Dilys Han
By Gel Cabotaje
Mathematics anxiety is real and palpable when Ms Dilys Han started teaching the subject a year ago.
“I did not know then that a fear of the subject was a real concern,” she says. “It reached a point where it hindered the students’ learning ability in the classroom.”
To help her students overcome their fear of numbers and symbols, she put herself in their shoes and thought of new ways to make the subject more relatable and interesting to teenagers.
“I spoke to them, and tried to understand the reason for their attitude towards mathematics from their perspective,” the 23-year-old explains.
After getting feedback, she went back to the drawing board and adjusted her teaching style to help her students learn better.
She came up with non-traditional ways to teach mathematics. For example, she incorporated a series of mathematics-themed escape room games into the lower secondary syllabus to make the subject more fun to learn.
She regularly uses cartoons and stories to teach concepts as well.
“I use mathematics to train metacognition (understanding one’s thought processes) and logic. And as much as possible, I try to help students adapt this logical thinking in making decisions in their daily lives,” she says.
“Otherwise, we’re just training students to be robots. I don’t deny that routine learning can help students achieve their As, but I would have failed as a mathematics teacher if I didn’t help students see the beauty of the subject and its ability to train logical thinking, and the interconnectedness between the concepts.”
Learning how to teach
Ms Han says she was not exactly the best student in her schooldays but she understood the role empathy plays in a teacher-student relationship, and how that can result in better grades. This, along with her desire to help the youth — especially those without proper guidance and support — motivated her to pursue a teaching career.
“I want to be there for the kids, to help them realise the importance of learning,” says Ms Han. “I also want to help them have a goal in life. We all need to work towards a greater something, and it can be anything, not necessarily yardsticks that society traditionally uses to define success like financial wealth. I want to be there to help students figure out what their own goal is.”
Motivated by her clear-cut desire to pursue a career in education, she applied for the Ministry of Education Teaching Scholarship. She won the scholarship in 2015 and chose to undergo her undergraduate degree under the Nanyang Technological University-National Institute of Education Teaching Scholars Programme (TSP).
Ms Han says TSP equipped her with robust content knowledge and pedagogical skills, and paved the way for her to experiment with teaching practicums, including overseas opportunities, that helped her discover her unique teaching style.
“The small class sizes and the fact that our professors are trained teachers were also major plus points for me because it meant there would definitely be quality learning,” she adds.
While Ms Han is considered a novice teacher, she has big dreams to gain exposure to other roles the industry has to offer.
But more importantly, she values her role in shaping a child’s character and way of thinking.
“These students will shape the future of our country. At the end of the day, only a handful will remember the content you teach but what they will take away are the life lessons you impart."
MOE Teaching Scholarship
Be a Singapore citizen or Singapore permanent resident who is willing to take up Singapore
citizenship; good character, strong leadership qualities and keen passion for education; good co-curricular activities (CCA) records; excellent interpersonal and communication skills; GCE
‘A’ Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), polytechnic diploma, NUS high school diploma or equivalent
VALUE OF THE AWARD:
Sponsorship of tuition fees and other approved charges; maintenance and pre-studies allowance; return economy airfare (for overseas studies only); developmental programmes
during undergraduate studies (e.g. school attachment); sponsorship of approved student
exchange programmes, summer programmes and CCAs; possibility of sponsorship of master’s degree (if requirements are met); be enrolled into the Postgraduate Diploma in
Education (PGDE) teacher preparation programme at the National Institute of Education (NIE) as a salaried employee, after completion of first degree
Six years (English speaking countries); five years (non-English speaking countries); four years (local)