Not everyone loves math. It’s very likely that you, dear reader, don’t love math. I continually hear stories from educators about difficulties in math, avoidance of math, and even avoidance of math teachers. But in my experience, some of the most forward-thinking, passionate, connected teachers, people you really should hang out with if you want to ponder the important questions in education – are math teachers.
Recently, I met with the Math Department Heads in our district. The energy, the excitement, the rapid exchange of ideas, and the commitment to student learning above all, lit up the room - and made it very hard to move through the agenda. The trouble, one teacher said as I tried to refocus the group on our agenda, is that we don’t talk anymore in our classrooms. Why? Because they have all made commitments to reduce lectures and increase students’ talking, practicing, figuring out, reflecting, manipulating, developing, creating – and have created some version of the “flipped classroom” with lectures posted on website, moodles and blogs. Below are some of the shifts they are making in their continued quest to ensure success in math for all students:
- Moving from passive to active learning.
- Moving toward personalized learning (using technology and peer learning to make this possible).
- Moving from “quizzes” to “show what you know” (this may seem like a small shift but the difference between answer my questions to share your knowledge is vast).
- Moving from silent rows (and hoarding answers) to encouraging and organizing students to “talk math” and to help each other.
- Moving away from teacher telling to student learning.
- Moving away from kids “running the gauntlet” of teacher expectations as one teacher put it - to ensuring that every student can get 100% (retests are the norm).
Imagine if the secret math genius in each student was allowed out? In our district, led by such extraordinary teachers, it won’t take long for math phobia to be as quaint as a fear of falling off the edge of a flat earth.