Saturday, 24 October 2015

Dear Mom with Math Concerns

Dear Mom with MATH Concerns,

I saw your hesitation as you entered my classroom with a few concerns about your child in my classroom. You glanced around the room and smiled and asked if you could be frank. You have math concerns. This math is a challenge and you feel your son is not quite understanding. I heard the wonder in your voice as you questioned the cutting and pasting in math lessons. Is this the new math you have been hearing about was the question on your mind.  Is there a purpose to why he does not use the textbook as often as your older children did when they were in grade eight.Was I sure that using pen in mathematics is the way to go? Are you actually teaching him or letting him learn off the internet?

You are not alone. Your questions and concerns are valid. Excuse my blushing checks as sometimes I forget that this is not the math class you were used to as a student yourself. Let me explain to you and to all of the other people who are concerned about why math has changed.

Dear mom with MATH CONCERNS,

Remember when you were a child sitting in rows with a textbook, notebook, pencil and the excitement of learning math ?Please stop your laughter now as you tell me about how you did not really get math. Your feeling of not getting math, was a similar feeling to many. 

Math in my classroom looks different primarily for that reason. I do not want students to hate math. I know that not every student will be a convert but I am going to try. This is considered the NEW math.  Math that looks, feels and sounds different.

I encourage pen. It is a radical idea for many. The reason I encourage students to use pen in my classroom is that I want to see their thinking. In my very humble experience students tend to erase work that they think is not valid or relevant to the problem. I want to encourage the thoughts to stay. Pen prevents the erasing. This is new to many people who are used to just writing the answer right away. The thinking is part of our curriculum and it is a better tool to help me as your child's teacher see where your child may be stumbling in their mind. It can be incredibly frustrating to always have the wrong answer, and showing thinking helps the student and myself see the area of growth and areas for new learning.

I encourage different colours. Math is not black and white. I was taught it was. There is only one way to find an answer. An algorithm, a trick, a carry a one here and cross this off there. Math is not. Math is a puzzle and there are many different ways to put the puzzle together. Colour can help separate math thoughts and connect them at the same time. That is why when you look at your child's notes you will see I have encouraged different colours(pens, pencil crayons and stickers).

I encourage interactive notes. You will see different coloured paper glued in that is not a worksheet. This helps give some tactile learning to the note taking process. Creating a pattern with stickers for example that has a constant and a multiplier connects the learner to the example in a more tangible way. Sure, they could draw a pattern with pen but using shiny stickers somehow makes that more fun. It also helps build more connections in your child's mind to the learning. Here is an example here.

I encourage cheesy math videos. I do this as sometimes the song or the wording with the music helps. Often at the end of the day the students will tell me they still have the math song in their head from the morning. (Yes! Thinking of math later in another subject without my direction)
Here is one that we used to review quadrilaterals:

I encourage problems with partners. Students learn from each other just as much as they learn from me. Hearing their buddy talk about math and bounce ideas off each other helps them see math from another point of view. 

I know your child is in the intermediate years and we are cutting and pasting. This seems too young for them and other children are not doing it. Especially in high school! I know. Your worried that your child is not getting the education they need. The cutting and pasting is a good sorting activity. To sort out the different types of angles, for example, gives them a more tactile way of learning. I am not looking at how neat it is but at the process of it.

I believe in students seeking out answers. Your child lives in a world where I am not the end all of information. If they forget what the Pythagorean Theorem is they do not need to wait to come to school to ask me, they can search it up with their own personal device. For that reason, there are times when I have asked your child to search something even in math and look at it with a critical eye. Is the information valid? Does it make sense? I am not-not teaching you child, I am trying to help them navigate through the plethora of information that is available to them every minute of every day right in their pocket. It can be overwhelming, I know. It can also be the most valuable resource to them if they are able to practise with it in a positive way.

I believe in gaming. Students can play games with each other in the classroom or sometimes on line. With programs and apps like Prodigy and Dream Box your child can practise at their own pace. No more forgotten worksheets as it is right there all the time. They are still kids after all and we all know the value and importance of how kids learn through play. In a kindergarten classroom it may be a water table, in my grade eight classroom it might be a memory game with new math terminology or playing Prodigy at home for a homework task.

I believe in movement. Students are moving around the room to find the next station card, we are are using our arms to form angles or we are building human graphs. For some students this is the ah-ha moment they need through movement and for some it is a fun way to reinforce the math topics in a more relaxed pace. I mean really, doesn't  "Dance Dance Transversal" sound so much more fun then,"finish questions 1 though 31 on page 292 of your text book".

I believe in questions! I do not see the validity of answering a hundred questions of similar wording to practice the concept. I believe in the experience of having students question why. This is why at times I do not give all of the answers away, or teach the topic first. Allowing the child to question gives them a chance to think about the math, interact with it. It changes from them being the factory math workers, answering repetitive math questions into math creators, inventors and experimenters. 

I know this is new. I know this is not how your were taught math. I also know that the unknown can be terrifying. 

Just know that I do this all out of the love of learning and reaching students in different ways. This might just give your child a chance to feel that math can be fun. I am not promising that there will not be difficult times. In fact there will be. I will promise to be there for you and for you child to ask questions and seek answers together. I promise to give your child a math experience that actually is an experience. 


Mrs Verwey ( and all the other teachers out there who are trying the NEW math) 

1 comment:

  1. great article...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...