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How do you see math???


As I sat down today watching Shelley Moore's "See Ya Later SMART goals!", it hit me how her research should be used to help explain math and how we should teach it. In her video she talks about the belief that to prove learning happens, it must be capturable by someone else. In other words you need to be able to see learning happen. So not true.

This has lead to an issue as not everybody learns the same way and therefor cant show the same evidence of learning. Our brains work differently, so the person assessing may not see how you are learning because they learn in a different way. Hence a dilemma or big issue. You can see this really evident in mathematics, where there is a belief in one solution to a problem.

I found when I was young showing my teacher that I could answer the question my way was always WRONG. Or they answered with the statement "sure it work this time but it probably won't work the next time".

My brain sees math different than other people and especially different than the textbooks. Was I still learning? You betcha!

Was I still understanding? Yes for sure but I wasn't matching the little square peg that my math class had been designed as.

So how do we change this?

How do we get people to stop believing there is only one right answer or that you have to show your learning or that a test proves our assessment is there.

And how do we make math an all inclusive course, where all students can be successful.......

I have spent 30 years in senior math classes and I have seen how students hate being there or refuse to take the course or are counselled to not take the tough levels. I believe we can all learn math and that it is about the learning process to get to the answer and not just the answer. I want to see what my students are seeing as the path to the answer. My goal is to see how their brain sees the solution and help guide them through any trouble areas along the way. This has led me to make changes in my math classes over the years and as such helped me to create an amazing inclusive environment for all learners to feel comfortable to take even calculus.

Now I'm not saying my way is the be all end all for teaching math. I am just saying that we need to look at math classes and change the status quo, so our students feel accepted there and have successes. Lets change the stigma about needing a math brain or being a math person. We all use math everyday and we all have a math brain. We just need to know its ok to do math how your brain sees it being done.

How would I change a math classroom:

1. No more textbook!!! Use the text as a resource but not the only way to do questions.

2. No more tests!!! Lets look at assessment of, for and as learning. Does a test show learning? Not there are too many factors that affect this situation. Lets look at assessment differently. Try a performance task instead.

3. Stop the here are the steps.... There are numerous ways to solve a problem not just by showing these steps. Look and listen to how your students see the way to the solution.

4. Its not just about worksheets. Make math real life. When you are looking for questions make them multistep solutions and realistic. Or even think outside of the box and make art the assignment. ( Use desmos to make a picture with specific kinds of formulas)

5. Celebrate the small successes. Not everyone will be a pro at every part of math but everyone will find success in an area. Celebrate that. Build the confidence that they can be successful in other areas of math too.

6. No segregating in math. No groups based on skill level. Let everyone work together. I combined my precalculus and workplace math classes together for years. They helped each other and worked on projects together. the insight from everyone was needed for many projects.

These are my must haves for any grade, any school and really any math class. See what you need to make your math class an all inclusive group celebrating the successes of everyone.


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I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.

BC educator....  @rilmcknight