I Hate Math

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Every math teachers’ most hated words, or at least something close.  I pride myself in making math fun, understandable, and relatable to my students.  I view instruction as a way to dispel myths created by negative experiences within math classrooms.  This year, I even implemented I Love Math month to combat math stereotypes and myths.

I’ve read and heard countless messages from students this year about how their perspective of math has changed.  But there were 3 vocal mindsets that had yet to change.  I began with encouraging words and motivational speeches to try and change their thinking.  And yet, negativity still prevailed.

So about March, I made a decision.  As my pastor puts it, I decided not to hug their fears.  When they would say statements like, “I’m not good at this” or “I hate math”, I responded with, “That’s unfortunate”.  When they would sit in their seats and not make an attempt while everyone else was engaged, I didn’t acknowledge them.  The bible puts it this way (in a different context of course): “…wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything, as they see your respectful and pure behavior.” 1 Peter 3:1-2 CJB.  What does that have to do with me and teaching? At some point, it isn’t our words that change the behavior and mindset, it’s our actions, passions and desire to do the right work.

What caused those students to come around was observing the enthusiasm of their peers and our stick-to-it-ness of challenging their fixed mindset.  Not giving into their demands of being less than their very best.  Not wavering from my core belief that math makes sense.  And establishing boundaries to say, this is where I begin and end and where you pick up to do the rest.

In the end, my hope is that they realized, when they put forth their best try, positive results occur.  My hope is that they realized it is a decision they must make in order to overcome the obstacles in which have been constructed in front of them.  My hope is that they realized love comes also in the form of encouragement in words and actions.

I’m not saying this is the antidote to the world’s problems, but it worked for me this year.  Every sickness does not have the same cure.  You will have to find what works for your relationship with your kids and that fits your core beliefs.  But I can guarantee you, when you lead with love (for math, kids, teaching, serving, etc) you will never lose.

I Love Math 2018- Day 2

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February 14th kicked off I Love Math month for my kids!  I learned about this idea in a session at #NCTMRegional2017 in Orlando.

Here is the list of events and slides.  I used components from Youcubed’s Inspirational Maths Week, visual patterns, Clothesline Math and 7th grade concepts you are reviewing.

Day 2 created a buzz within the room as students worked in groups to create equations which would result in a solution of x = 4.  Students were given the added incentive of creating a complex equation which I defined as an equation which included fractions or decimals, were multi-step and/or used the distributive property.

Each group chose one equation to share with the class in which everyone worked to prove or disprove the solution of x = 4.  Below are some of the equations shared within 3 of my 4 classes.

 

Things were so intense with selecting a winning team in my 4th academic class I needed the math AP to come and select the winning equation.

To see students so excited about mathematics was very encouraging and completely worth the 5-15 minutes spent each day during I Love Math month!

Video of Day 2 equation sharing

What’s More Important

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At the end of a unit, a decision must be made. As the teacher, you have the power to decide which mindset you want to encourage. Fixed mindset says this is the end of learning for Unit 1, show what you know and if you don’t know it too bad so sad. A growth mindset says, I know you may understand some concepts more than others. Learning is a process and you have until the end of this school year to master these standards.

I believe these mindsets are communicated to students through what we allow and disallow during the unit test/common assessments. So what did I allow for my first common assessment for my new students?

Our anchor charts we developed as a collaboration of 4 classes. Most math teachers have store bought posters hung in their classrooms. These posters remain up throughout the year and probably very rarely do students refer to them as a resource. Our anchor charts on the other hand are interactive and we refer back to them constantly throughout the learning process. And just as those store bought posters aren’t removed, our anchors are not removed during our unit tests.

I allowed students to ask me questions. Many I couldn’t answer such as, “do I multiply or divide for this question”. But for questions like, “I don’t understand what this question is asking me to do” were used as a teachable moment to apply the 3-Read Strategy to make sense of word problems. Questions like, “what’s a terminating decimal again” I answered because students were introduced to the term only a day before the test and I had yet to put it on the word wall. Here’s a note on word walls.

I helped kids use functions on the calculator. In 6th grade, students are only allowed to use 4 function calculators. Then in 7th grade, they are given TI-30s to use. And we all know the calculators don’t give correct answers if the user has incorrect thinking. So when they ended up with a SYNTAX ERROR message, I explained they had to use a different button from the subtraction symbol to input a negative number. When they tried entering a mixed number, I explained what buttons to push to get the template for mixed numbers.

I feel it’s important for students to have some success on their first assessment to help with math confidence. So on the 1st assessments , I go around checking over a few answers and encourage students to double check their thinking on those the answered incorrectly. In most cases, students have already applied some form of process of elimination and they end up with the correct answer. In other cases I can see their misconceptions even when the question is multiple choice. What I’ve found with using this method is in general students become a little more confident mathematically because of the overall success and they also become more prone to automatically review their answers before submitting their test.

And what I feel was the most important thing for them was, I asked, “is everyone doing okay?” Those that were pressed on. Those that weren’t looked up at me wide eyed and shook their heads no. Imagine the anxiety they were dealing with prior to my question.

At the end of our common assessment yesterday, I shared the class average with each class. We had a brief talk about how hard they’ve work over our two weeks together and how their hard work paid off. We discussed how our timeline for learning differed from the other math classes and how we will continue to work with the concepts to begin to commit them to memory.

I’m sure you have your own opinion about what was discussed within the post. And before you question what I’ve done, may I pose this question to you. What’s more important to you, politics and their rules of engagement or students and their overall mindset?