Welcome! If you saw my “Us and Math” talk at the Creative Edge conference at West LA College, you’ll find several resources I mention in my talk below. Feel free to scroll ahead to the “Resources” section.
To my regular readers: This post is a little different than my usual posts, but there’s still something in it for you! I gave a 12-minute talk at a creativity conference to a non-math-educator audience that was very different from our usual audiences at math conferences. The premise of the talk was about why and how we need to move the conversation of our math identities beyond the simple polarity of “I am a math person” and “I am not a math person.” (Spoiler Alert: I am not a math person.)
I invite you to watch a screencast of my talk. I’d love to hear what thinking it sparks for you and how we can build the message together.
My Dilemma I had an experience last week that has me in a professional dilemma, and I’m looking for your input. My dilemma may be emotionally charged to you; it is to me, but I assure you that I want to seek a positive outcome for everyone involved (the student, teacher, parent, and me) in […]
Last week, I wrote about Pair Drawings, one of my favorite ways to establish classroom norms at the beginning of the school year.
Starting on the first day of school, I want my students to know these two fundamental norms. (1) Learning mathematics is a collaborative effort. It’s something we do together; it’s not something that I do to you. (2) How you respond to frustration when you’re struggling reveals more about your talents and character than your ability to avoid struggling altogether.
Simply telling my students these norms won’t be as effective as having them practice these norms and uncover them for themselves by reflecting on their experiences. That’s why I appreciate Pair Drawings so much.
But the learning students make from this activity won’t endure unless we do two things:
1. Allow students to see themselves reflected in these norms.
2. Post a physical, visual reminder of the classroom norms in the right place.
Here’s a way to do that.
Welcome back math nerds!
This is my favorite time of year. Clean slate, clean classrooms, fresh ideas, and refreshing optimism. I also love this time of year because I love building classroom norms and setting the tone for the classroom culture that is necessary for productive and rich mathematical thinking and discourse.
Starting on the first day of school, I want my students to know these norms:
Learning mathematics is a collaborative effort. It’s something we do together; it’s not something that I do to you.
How you respond to the frustration of struggling reveals more about your talents and character than your ability to avoid struggling altogether.
But I don’t want to tell my students these norms; I want them to practice these norms and uncover them for themselves by reflecting on their experiences.
“Pair Drawings” is one of three activities I use in the classroom to build culture and outline norms at the beginning of the school year.
I facilitate a lot of lesson studies, lead workshops, and orchestrate other professional learning opportunities with teachers around the country. I’ve learned that teaching is a professional and personal act of passion. We teach who we are, and we have deeply held cultural beliefs about our work. Teaching is an action that is informed by our beliefs, and before any good, productive professional learning can happen, we need to hold space to share these personal beliefs with each other.
I often start my work by having teachers reflect on their passions and identity as a teacher. In the past, I’ve used the National School Reform Faculty’s document called Passion Profiles, but I’ve found the document has some limitations. So I created my own based on their amazing work and my experiences of what works.
I’ve inserted the full activity in this post.
What do you think? Is this valuable to you as a teacher? As a facilitator or leader? How can we make this better? Feedback welcomed. Please share your thoughts in the comment section or keep the conversation going on Twitter (@mathgeek76).
What do we do when the needs of our students conflict with the mandates of our profession?
I share this dilemma because I think it’s important that we do so as educators. Too often, we privatize our experiences in isolated silos, unwilling to expose our sense of conflict and turmoil as we navigate the messy dilemmas inherent in our work.
Failure seems safer when no one is watching. We need to have the courage to make failure cheap.
As a student, math class was mostly about taking notes, practicing algorithms and getting right answers. And I loved it. I really did. I could hide. It was safe and without risk. I was comfortable. “I do; we do; you do” was my jam as a student. More importantly, in this teaching style, I identified as a really strong and talented math student because I learned algorithms and got right answers. That’s what good math students do in class, right? I never had to share my thinking, never had to learn from the thinking of others, never had to challenge the dimensions of my adolescent bubble of insecurity. I never had to share or listen to a classmate share an interesting math question or an elegant solution. I never had to be vulnerable.
When I started teaching, I created the same classroom culture. I was safer as a teacher as well. I could hide. Never take risks. Be comfortable. I was the author of culture in my classroom. They were the factory workforce with one job to do: consume the algorithm and produce right answers. And my teaching aligned to this goal. Employing this style of pedagogy created a silent pact in my classroom: If you sit there and do your job and let me do mine, I will never ask you to take a risk, to challenge the dimensions of your adolescent bubble of insecurity, to share anything unique or interesting about you or your thinking. Time will pass and so will you. We might be bored, but we’ll get through this together without ever knowing each other or our vulnerabilities. Now let’s open up our textbooks and get to work.
I’m on a mission. And I invite you to join me. I’m on a mission to tear calculus down from its ivory tower on the math landscape. Even if you don’t know calculus, you can still join me because this mission is also for you. Here are a few myths that I would like to dispel on […]