Week 2: Call to action (Option 2)

11 Nov 2017 7:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Have a conversation with your students around words such as easy, hard, fast, slow, right, wrong, or around the question, What does it mean to be good at math? Record the conversation and transcribe or summarize it. What did you learn?


  • 12 Nov 2017 3:35 PM | Deleted user
    We had a discussion during our morning meeting, "What is math?." Students were surprised I was asking the question, but I got some great answers. Math is learning. Math is addition, subtraction, and counting. Math is for everyone! Math is counting by 10s. Math is skip counting. Math is time. Math is science. Math is fun to do! We are using a new math program this year, Eureka Math. There is a lot of oral counting. We count by ones, tens and hundreds. Students are challenged to record self improvement on sprints. After completely a workbook page together, an exit slip shows me what I need to go over again the next day.
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  • 13 Nov 2017 1:51 PM | Anonymous member
    I had a conversation with some of my eighth grade pre-algebra students about their feelings towards math. They started off by expressing their frustration in understanding why we're learning the things we are and how they are applicable to their futures. This is always the question for math teachers, right?! :) We discussed the importance of learning foundational math skills, and that it doesn't always relate to future employment - we do math every day, even when we might not know it! I told them we could continue that conversation another day. When we moved on to how using those words in math effect us, my students expressed many of the same opinions of the students in the book example, and came to many of the same conclusions. They agreed that expressing when something is easy can be hurtful and discouraging for those students who are struggling with the same problem. Some of their reactions included feeling like they're not as good as others, not being able to focus, and getting frustrated to the point of giving up. We brainstormed ways to combat this and they kept coming back to "just don't say it." However, I did receive some suggestions of walking away from the problem and coming back to it, or listening to music to calm down. We shifted our conversation to being able to recognize when we're struggling and the strategies we can use to persevere through the struggle. My hope was to help them understand that there is always going to be a struggle - we're learning brand new things! - but what's important is how we handle that struggle. We discussed the importance of not giving up, and realizing that just because you don't understand something right now, does not mean that you won't understand it in the future.

    I thought that our conversation was productive and honest, and I think that they were able to give me some valuable feedback. My hope is that I can continue to have these types of discussions around our struggles in math, with the goal of helping them to accept those struggles and work through. These discussions are so important to have with my students because they are the low-achievers in math; they are the ones who face struggles every day and need to be reassured that it's an acceptable and natural thing that happens when we're learning something new. I think that this resonated with many of the students in this class, and I'm hoping it will be encouraging for them as we move forward.
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    • 14 Nov 2017 7:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      Eighth grade and fourth grade aren't that different - we all have the same feelings.
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  • 13 Nov 2017 2:42 PM | Deleted user
    I am a GT specialist, so I had a conversation about what it means to be good at math with a group of three third graders, all advanced in math. All of them thought of themselves as being “good at math.” Although they don’t think of themselves as ‘mathematicians’, they agreed that their classmates do, always asking, “How did you know that?”

    They thought a characteristic that is vital to math success is persistence, with one student saying, “If you look at a problem and it doesn’t look like any problem you’ve ever seen and you quit after one second, you’ll never get it.” They said that they need “a chance to think about how to do it by ourselves and figure it out ourselves. If you say how to do the problem, then you’re basically just telling us and we’ll never learn. If you give us thinking time, then our brain actually has to turn around and we’ll learn. Your brain has to learn even if you get it wrong.” They said that in the grade level classroom, “the teacher first explains that you do the problem like this and this. And now do these problems. So our teachers tell us too much about how to do things.” They like it better when they’re given the problems first, and explanations or discussions come later.

    They also talked about confidence, and although they think being overly confident isn’t an admirable characteristic, they thought having some confidence in their own abilities helps. They’re not afraid to be faced with a challenge or to make errors. They see this all as learning.
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    • 27 Nov 2017 3:59 AM | Anonymous member
      Hi Sarah,
      Great point, "They're not afraid to be faced with a challenge or to make errors. They see this all as learning." Encouraging risk taking in mathematics is important because they must be willing to have that attitude you mentioned. Couldn't help but think about including plenty of thinking time for students as they work those problems out.
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      • 11 Dec 2017 9:27 AM | Deleted user
        Yes, they ask for that think time.
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  • 14 Nov 2017 4:40 PM | Anonymous member
    This morning,I posed the question...."What does it mean to be good at math?" to my students and asked them to write a letter to me or the student intern explaining their thinking in their math journals. As I read their letters, I took some notes on the words and ideas that kept popping up: solve problems, equations, pay attention and listen so you'll know what to do, understand, practice and the very occasional: concepts, innovative, open minded, confident, work hard..... It seemed that most of my students thought that math was something that you "got", which was very disappointing to me. Interestingly, the students who participate in the gifted math program were the only ones to come up with the ideas of perseverance, growth mindset, and thinking about mistakes.
    We haven't yet had a group discussion about this, but will on Friday when all the students can participate--lots of pull-outs in my room this year. I am hoping to get them to share their thinking and try to connect some of their ideas to the experiences we had early on in September with the Week of Inspirational Math videos and activities. There is an apparent need in my class to continue investigating and discovering that math can be playful,not just something you "get", but something that you can develop and learn by "noodling" and exploring different topics.
    This would be a good question to pose again in June........
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  • 14 Nov 2017 6:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    We had a discussion about what mathematicians do in September, when I first read Chapter 2. We watched some of the videos by Vi Hart, and another about the mathematics in juggling. We tried out some playful math, had a homework assignment about what math is, and got a nice variety of answers. We boiled it down to finding patterns in the world. Now, as we encounter lessons, I ask the students to focus on what patterns they notice.

    Students have really started to open up about math. I have a number of students who would like to avoid work all together- I'm sure most of you can relate. Last week, one of these said, "4th grade math is magic," and another agreed. A third said, "Yeah, math is fun." Totally out of the blue, but definitely brought me hope. I am excited that they like math, and are seeing at least some success. I am excited to continue to learn more strategies from future chapters to keep this alive, and hopefully deepen our thinking.
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  • 15 Nov 2017 4:29 PM | Anonymous member
    I read this chapter of the book with unwarranted skepticism: it seemed to me that the approach was best suited to younger learners. But I was interested to find out that that was not the case.

    At my school, we have an advisory period and it just so happened that this week's topic for advisory was about effective communication between teachers and students. Students named ways that they felt they had been heard by teachers and ways in which they had not.

    This prompted me to read some of the dialog between Deb and her students, including Lydia and Jules. My advisees were interested in the text and, while they agreed that the students were younger than themselves, the emotions expressed by the students resonated with my students. The idea of not getting it as fast as others, or that they felt bad by what others around them did, was truthful for them.

    The experience opened me up to the hidden side of student personalities and it made me aware of the value of this book in relation to my high school teaching.
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  • 15 Nov 2017 5:27 PM | Deleted user
    I had a conversation with my Kindergarten class and asked them, "What does it mean to be good at math" These were some of my responses. "You follow directions.", " It's about practicing your work until you get it right.", "Listening, thinking, working hard and doing your job." "If the teacher says something and if you do it wrong you can always start over and try again.", I asked the kids if we always get our math work correct the first time? They answered "no!". Does it mean we are not good at math? the students answered "No!" One student said, "If you practice then it will get easier and then if it was hard then now it is easy.", I then proceeded to ask them if math is easy what does that mean? Some answers were, "If you took a guess and you tried it again that is easy." "If it is easy it is something I can do really fast." I then asked, "What if math is hard? What does that mean?" Some answers were, "You go slowly.", "You might stop for a second and do hard thinking to try to get the answer.", "I don't get hard math.", and "I don't want to do it if it is hard for me."

    This conversation took about 10-15 minutes as I have 9 kiddos in my class. They got antsy so I stopped after hard. First of all, I was impressed with the answers my kids came up with. Some of the conversation sounded similar to the conversations in Chapter 2 and I found that interesting. I felt for 5 year olds they could articulate easy and hard and how they felt about math. I was comforted by the fact my students did not use much negative language when answering these questions so I am hoping my job will be easier as the kids know that not getting the exact answer the first time is okay and great minds often have do do work more than once to get the outrcome they are looking for. My classroom philosophy in math and other subjects is that it should be exciting and fun and even when we have to do some extra thinking we all will sooner or later find the love for math. As I go through this book group I will adjust and incorporate the new finding to help make my math program more successful for my students and less stressful. I cannot wait to ask these same questions later on in the year and compare the answers I get to the ones I received now.
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  • 16 Nov 2017 3:40 PM | Anonymous member
    I asked my students two questions: "What does it mean to be good at math?" and "What is math?" Following are the responses to the first question:
    *you never give up
    *you ask questions if you don't know
    *you don't blurt out answers
    *you listen
    *you focus
    *you are "on fire"
    *read the question before you start
    *you figure out answers
    *be a good math writier
    *the teacher tells you you are good at math
    I found this conversation interesting and feel the kids have some good ideas about what it means to be good at math.
    There are some good habits of mind statements and signs of growth mindset. The comment that stuck out to me most was that some children have the idea that they are only good at math if the teacher tells them they are. It is scary to be reminded about how much we influence our students by what we do and do not say. I am hoping this was said because I do tell all of them that they can do math and are good at it. I want to help all of my students develop a confidence and growth mindset with math that will enable them to feel good in their math development. I want them to know that even though they may struggle, they are still good at math and that being good at math may look different for different children.

    "What is math?"
    *working with numbers
    *number lines
    *1+2 adding, plus
    *minus, take-away, subtraction
    *Base Ten Blocks
    *working hard
    *solving problems
    *figuring out things
    "Do you do math everyday throughout the day?" The response was "NO!"

    As a result of this conversation I am inspired to move away from drill and practice, "I do, we do, you do" and procedures and towards creating a math time of wondering, imagining, investigating, figuring, reasoning and proving. I also want to be sure to point out the many time during the day that math is part of what we are doing and that it is fun, important and necessary. I am not sure how to do this exactly, but am open to learning. I plan to try some "finding math in our world" activities to help my students realize math is all around them. I want them to realize that math can be interesting, fun and exciting.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 8:43 AM | Anonymous member
    I am an ed tech so my teacher led this discussion with two questions: What does it mean to be good at math? And What is math? I like that we explored two sides of a similar question because it seemed to lead to different beliefs about math. First, the students seemed to understand that to be good at math reflected the mathematical practices. Making sense, reasoning, modeling, precision, looking for patterns were all present in their responses of working hard and never giving up. Many of them look to the teacher to for their personal beliefs about their ability to do math. This should not be minimized. We are modeling their future independent beliefs about their math practices.
    Second, the question of what is math elicited the kind of responses I was afraid of. They were all numbers based and equation based. We need to do more to make students aware of he math that happens everyday all day long that they are unaware that three do or see. More real life problems do not mean more word problems they do not translate to the students day to day lives like we would hope. Making the most out of “ teaching moments” can help students see the math around them. This would support project based learning, however there are not enough resources available to teachers for implementing. Also finding the balance between teaching a program in your curriculum and adding these teaching moments and PBL events is nearly impossible. I look at that more than anything else.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 2:01 PM | Anonymous member
    I asked my students "What does it mean to be good at math?". Here are some of their responses:
    -a student is hard working, listens to the teacher and can think really hard
    -trying your best and following along
    -if you ever get a question wrong, you just keep trying
    These are some responses to some of the words:
    hard: -it frustrates you, stresses you out
    - I like hard questions because I like to be challenged
    easy: -that is one person's opinion, makes me feel sad because it could be hard for someone else.

    wrong: -makes you feel bad, need to take deep breathes

    right: -feel really good

    Overall the students said that nobody should give up and try your best.
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  • 17 Nov 2017 2:20 PM | Anonymous member
    I asked some seniors what it means to be good at math:
    -Good at problem solving
    -Use lots of different methods
    -Try different methods until you get one that works
    -Just know how to solve a problem immediately(fast)
    -Nothing is every truly easy, you can understand a problem but math is always branching into different levels
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  • 17 Nov 2017 5:48 PM | Anonymous member
    We had a conversation around what it means to be good at math. During the discussion, I got memorizing 2 out of 6 classes. I was a little surprised that I didn't hear it more frequently. I am not sure if it is because of the changes that we have made in trying to get the students to make sense out of the math or if they just didn't think of it. I got responses like: nerd, understands most of concepts, knows math facts, passing, getting good grades, try and care about math, brain just works that way, can explain it, analytical. It seems that they believe that you have to have the mind for math, which doesn't surprise me. They have probably heard that before. Afterwards, I explained to them why I asking them these questions and I talked to them about what math really is. I reminded them of a couple of problems that we did at the beginning of the year. One was to find as many triangles as they could in a picture. It was a problem where they had to think, maybe re-draw, and try to figure it out. I learned how much they enjoyed those types of problems. Now I am wishing that I had more problems like that, but more related to current content.
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  • 19 Nov 2017 7:34 AM | Anonymous member
    I teach grade 5 to forty students. I started by putting two questions on the board: "What is math? How do you feel about math?" Students could answer how I feel: it's hard, it's easy, I don't like it, I can't do it. I went deeper with the answers - what does it mean, it is easy, why is it hard, and students had a very difficult time answering those questions. I teach fifth grade and there is not much reflective practice or talking about why/what is math. After 20 minutes of asking why, why - students were able "to explain that math is easy because when I do it, I can it right all the time". It was the opposite for those who hated it math, "I'm wrong all the time". One student stated when "other kids are smart at math cuz they do their math quickly". This comment led me to be able to say - if I do math quickly what does that mean. It took about 15 minutes for students to answer - I know how to do it, or I already learned it and can do it. The conversation was very rich when we got deeper into the why and how.

    My plan is to pose these same questions every trimester - have students in writing and then reflect on the end of the year. I also like the idea one participant in this group had - of showing videos to students.
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  • 19 Nov 2017 6:35 PM | Anonymous member
    I will be doing this tomorrow. I am in the process of taking the 2-day Illustrative Workshop through the MDOE and our activity is due soon. I have chosen a Jo Boaler activity "Circle Fever" and will be setting the stage with the work she recommends about what makes a good group. I had intended to do this before now, but we missed 3 days of school because of that big wind storm, and I am slightly behind. If worse comes to worse, I will model bad behavior. My students have been working in groups now for almost 2 months, but the language piece is still not working as I would like it to.
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    • 26 Nov 2017 8:03 AM | Anonymous member
      I am replying to myself. I did the activity right before the break, but we started with making a list of words/expressions that make people nervous/anxious in math class. In was amazing how close the list was to the one in the book. My next step is to ask them what words/expressions would make people feel more secure. I am then going to put them on a poster/handout so that they can refer to them regularly.
      I'm looking forward to doing this with my other 2 classes tomorrow.
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  • 23 Nov 2017 11:42 AM | Anonymous member
    I had so much fun asking an assortment of grade levels the question, “What does it mean to be good at math?”! After asking kindergarten students, I thought for sure I would hear very different responses as students got older, which is why I then asked 1st graders, and then 2nd graders, and then skipped up to 5th graders. The responses were surprisingly similar, and not particularly what I expected. Here is a summation of what I got:

    If you are good at math you…
    Can count good
    Try your best
    Listen to others
    Don’t give up
    Make mistakes
    Slow Down
    Work together AND by yourself
    Find more than one way to do things
    Use math tools to help you when you get stuck
    Are good at counting on, subtracting and plussing
    Can prove your answer by doing in another way and getting the same answer
    Know how to do easy questions and use what you know on those to solve hard ones
    Take challenges
    Mess up
    Try to be efficient
    Ask questions if you don’t understand
    Think hard
    Use different strategies
    Show work so people can understand how you did it
    Let yourself get frustrated
    Can do mental math…like in the grocery store
    Can explain how you got your answer
    Piggy back on others’ ideas
    Look at things in a unique way
    Ask lots of questions
    Read the directions
    Choose partners wisely
    Listen and try to understand
    Make connections
    Try, try and try again
    Have patience

    I was astounded at their list! The similarities across the grades was equally fascinating to me. Not once did a student say to be good at math you had to be fast which really surprised me. It’s nice to see that the messages we are giving to students is making a difference. Now I wonder what a group of parents would say if we asked them!
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