Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Those first few days... (part 1)

So this is it...summer is over.
I swear it went way faster this year, but I probably say that every year.
So we are back to reality tomorrow...and taking on a new set of challenges with new kids but my mission remains the same...
My Math Mission - to get kids to realize the importance of math and have a little fun while doing it!

I know that on that first day of school, there are a few kids that will walk into my classroom and already dislike me simply because I am the MATH teacher! I accept this. I acknowledge that math is not every student's favorite subject. So I take these students on as my personal challenge! They are the ones I am going to show that Math is important, Math can be fun, and Math is definitely real!

One way to not do this, is to start teaching "math" the second they sit down in my room. I cringe when I hear teachers say, "I start teaching from day 1, how else am I going to meet all my outcomes/standards?" I know there are things we need to get done, but throwing multiplicaton facts or algebraic equations at them the first day, is just going to push these reluctant learners further and further away. We need to help them warm up at bit first, get to know them as math learners, get them talking about math, and most importantly provide them with activities in which they will all feel successful. Once you do these things, your plans to meet all those outcomes/standards will fall into place. I promise!

My three main goals during the first week of school are:
1) Get to know my student's individual abilities and thoughts when it comes to math.
2) Get my students thinking about math and how it relates to them.
3) Get my students interacting with one another by using math.

Goal #1

One of the first things I have students do is complete a "Math Survey". This survey gives me a glimpse into my students' needs, abilities, as well as their feelings when it comes to math. We all know that math can often have a bad reputation, and some students will enter your room with “math anxiety”. They may be skeptical of math the moment they walk into your room, because of their parents, previous math teachers, or from previous math experiences. I feel that this is a great way to get students to open up about their views of math class, and more importantly have them feel that they have a say in the math classroom.


The typical responses I get for best and worst math experience are getting a bad/good mark on a test. But every now and then, I am taken aback by a response that I get, which makes me glad to have had them completed this survey.

One year a boy wrote, " My worst math experience was being pulled out in grade 3 for extra math help". This comment really made me wonder, I know the "pull-out" for extra support has been used on and off in some form for quite a while. As a teacher, I know we often think this will help, as they are getting the extra support they need when we are not able to provide it. However, seeing that this student has carried this with him since grade 3 ( I teach grade 8), makes me wonder did we make things any better for him in terms of his math learning? Or worse? Just something to think about...

Once my students complete the survey, I may ask for some to share their responses, just to get a conversation going. I then inform them, that since they told me what kind of students they are, I should tell them about what kind of teacher I am.

I usually start by telling them that math was not always my favorite (or best) subject in school, but I love to teach Math! I never use a textbook (this always gets a few cheers), I love to make math fun
with hands-on activities and games, and my main goal is to make them see how important math is and how they will use it one day in their future jobs, whatever that may be!

By the end of the period, I usually have a few more of those reluctant Math learners on my side...

If you would like to get to know your students as math learners, download your FREE copy of the survey here.

Stay tuned for how I meet goal #2!


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