When I was in the 8th grade, I really had a difficult time grasping math concepts. Much of it came from the fact that I didn't get a solid foundation in math based around specific mathematical concepts years prior to being in 8th grade. In fact when it was time for math, a nervous feeling came over me. I would start sweating and my heart would begin to beat at a fast pace. I couldn't fathom the thought of being called on to answer a question. Once, the teacher was going over a problem and I remember her singling me out to see if I understood what she was doing. Embarrassed and afraid of telling her the truth -which was that I really didn't understand- I nodded my head and pretended that I did. I certainly didn't want to look like a "dummy" in front of my classmates who clearly understood what they were doing. So I "faked it" just to save face. Needless to say, I ended up getting an "F" on the math test. That feeling of seeing my grade compared to the other students sitting around me made me feel worse...I dreaded math class and begin to believe that I would never be good at math.
For so many students and adults, when it comes to math they find it difficult to understand key concepts. Topics such as geometry, measurement, multiplication, division, and the most challenging of them all...FRACTIONS tends to make math a subject to avoid if at all possible. What I discovered over the years was that I was very capable of being good at math. As I grew more comfortable with asking for help, I learned that I hadn't grasped those foundational skills needed when it came to making sense of numbers (i.e. estimating, discussing strategies for solving problems, trying/testing different strategies, etc.). These things are extremely necessary when building a solidified foundation for math. In addition to great teachers along the way who saw my potential and encouraged me along the way, I grew into a student that loved math! In fact I am now a Math Coach! Look at how God will use those things that were once a challenge/struggle for you and turn it around so that you can be a blessing to others!!!!
As I read an article by Stanford University Math Professor Jo Boaler, I was immediately reminded of that scared little 8th grader who didn't believe in her abilities and who was too afraid to ask for help. As I share with teachers often during Instructional Coaching rounds, it is so important that you know your students so that your lesson plans are designed to meet the needs of ALL the students in your classroom. In addition to this week's post, I have also included the article by Professor Boaler. Feel free to read it when you have a chance; I believe you will find the suggestions for implementation of effective math instruction useful in your classrooms. As we continue to improve our practices in education, let's also build on creating classroom environments that encourage our students to become risk takers. This happens when classroom teachers promote safe spaces that allow students to make mistakes; and in turn, the teacher and other students positively clear up any misconceptions through class discussions...this is when authentic learning takes place! Until next time...go out there and be GREAT!
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