Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Math is Personal - Week 1 Reflection

“The truth is this: You’re not born being a math smarty pants—it is something you learn. The real trick to being a math smarty pants is believing that math makes sense, or can make sense if you put your mind to it.” ---Marilyn Burns Math for Smarty Pants pg. 9

This past year, I was lucky enough to start working on a team that was explicitly teaching and reinforcing growth mindset. In short, this is the idea that you aren’t born smart, but instead, effective effort makes you smarter.  I think that this is such an important idea for students to embrace, particularly with mathematics, where so many people seem to think they are a “math person” or they aren’t. (Jo Boaler offers two interesting online courses—one for students and one for teachers that tackle this idea as well.) In reading the introduction to Math for Smarty Pants for my the Math is Personal smOOC, I found that growth mindset was really the foundation on which the rest of Marilyn Burns’ conceit was built.

Burns explains to her reader that there are different ways of being smart in math: with numbers, with shapes, with visualization, with strategy games, with puzzles, etc. This reminded me of the mathematical competencies that Ilana Horn presented in Strength in Numbers: quick and accurate calculation, posing interesting questions, making astute connections, representing ideas clearly, developing logical explanations, working systematically, and extending ideas (30).

This idea of different ways of being smart or different types of competencies in the math classroom is so important to me not only because I believe it is true, but because so many of my students do not. As Burns says, “some people think that being good in math is just getting the right answers to problems.” People think this because that is what many math classes (including mine) reinforce. As I continue this class, I want to think about how the choices I make about the structures in my own classroom reinforce the value of quickly getting the right answer. I want to think about how I can change the structure, change the way I speak, change the way I present problems to get at the heart of mathematics. Because the wide array of mathematical competencies gives more students an entry point to get smarter at math. It's also why math is interesting, beautiful, and ultimately a subject that I love.

1 comment:

  1. So much of this speaks to the heart of what I think our smOOC is about, in that we need to foster that growth mindset within our students and ourselves. So often human nature tends to shut down when a task seems too difficult, and we need to find ways to foster that growth mindset, to allow ourselves some grace, and through this we will develop perseverance and lifelong learners. Great thoughts here. Well done.