All Students Need Us
Math is one of those subjects with a love/hate relationship. The traditional classroom has proven to be successful for some, but not for others. I have always tried to create an even playing field in my math classroom, but it can prove to be challenging especially if you do not know where to start.
During a recent presentation about making more of the math classroom, I heard a phrase that made me think.
“Some students don’t need me.”
This phrase shocked me at first, but after reflecting on my own experiences as a student and teacher, I can see how this is a problem. This can be a truth in many classrooms where students who come to class with a confidence in mathematics and a growth mindset can work independently on the content given and never need any help.
The truth is…
“All students need us, regardless of ability.”
School math is typically a set of problems, all wrapped up neatly with a clear path and answer. Real-world math is the opposite. It is messy and confusing and paths are not clear at times. How might we bridge the gap between school math and what math looks like in the real world?
The answer isn’t more of the same. I am a huge proponent of the work Jo Boaler is doing at Stanford and agree with her statement “Anyone can learn to high levels” (YouCubed.org, n.d.). If a student has mastered the content you give, don’t give more, give different. This is why I chose to start a business in my seventh grade math classroom. This allowed for students at any level to feel successful in math. It made success approachable to all students, but it also allowed everyone to experience failure and perseverance. Thinking back on my experience as a math student, I rarely had the opportunity to experience discourse. The problems given in class came really easily for me and when I finally experienced a challenge, I did not know exactly how to approach it. I became an equation solving robot rather than a problem solver.
The exciting news: there are many free resources out there that allow teachers to push those students who “don’t need us” and give the fixed mindset students a way to realize their potential as mathematicians.
Here are my five favorite resources: