When I was at my most recent Interactive Notebook workshop (for 6th-12th grade math teachers) I participated in a conversation at lunch about some of the concerns of students in middle school and high school when it comes to being prepared for the standards required and I was amazed that some of the many things that I was thinking about when I was in the classroom were shared by others.
While we were eating we started making a list of what we perceived to be some of the overall problems our students were having and how it affected their problem solving abilities in secondary math.
1. While in Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, all subjects are typically taught by the same teacher who is in charge of not only making time to get all of the subjects in as required but also differentiate, modify, give benchmark testing multiple times per year and in multiple subjects all while juggling the needs of 20-30 students.
I know that when I was an elementary teacher (2nd and 5th) that there were days I never knew if I was going to get it all in much less to the depth and complexity that was needed so that students would not only understand what they were doing but also retain it for future years. Time was a BIG ISSUE.
2. Not all teachers are created the same. Different teachers have different strengths in their teaching and that shows in their students by what areas are typically more in depth and innovative because it is comfortable for the teacher. We also see a HUGE push for literacy in the younger grades which leads to help building mathematical comprehension eventually but also takes some of that precious time from building the foundation skills as those brains are forming in the younger grades.
Secondary teachers, for the most part, are teaching a particular subject because that subject is their passion. I will be the first to tell you that Math has ALWAYS been a passion of mine and I have always gravitated toward it in my classroom because I love seeing that light in the eyes of a student when they grab onto something. I've also heard the woes of many teachers time and time again that they "just don't get" math beyond a certain point because they don't use it regularly and therefore what they teach they know because they teach it but not necessarily how it will affect them in further grades. Which leads me too....
3. It takes time to master the standards of the grade level(s) that we teach. It is not important to just know what our students need to master in our classroom this year but also how it will affect them in the following years. Math has so many foundation skills that if students don't master they will literally have gaps in their foundation that take years to fill in.
Think about it... can you build a house on a foundation that isn't solid? Well, you probably could but over time it would grow weak and crumple under pressure. Wow, I will tell you that is an exact metaphor for what happens to so many students. They are not building a solid foundation in skills that are necessary to move on to further skills.
And now that I feel like I have shared a dissertation with you, I will share with you a quote of a book that I am reading right now...
"Students should be able to put mathematics to a functional use. They should have the ability to analyze, reason and communicate ideas effectively as they pose, formulate, solve and interpret solutions of mathematical problems in a variety of solutions."
To me this resounds so clearly with what our discussion was and how important it is that we help students build a connection between what we are teaching and the real-world so that it will click through visualization and allow them recall later.
Thank you so much for getting to this point of the blog post as I know it has been SUPER long. I would love to hear what you are doing in your classroom to help build future mathematicians.
Have a great day and make a new connection with someone today!
So, until next time...
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P.S. The Interactive Notebook Linky returns on October 28th over on my blog! Get your posts ready!