TQS 2d: Engaging in Career Long Learning - critically reviewing educational research to improve practice
With this in mind, I choose Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets to start my summer pd. I will be teaching a PAT year and so I feel I need to step my math game up a notch, and this is just the book to help me do that. Mathematical Mindsets was recommended by a friend who I consider a genius in the field of education. I settled into this book today with great anticipation. My goal is to read a chapter each day and blog my understandings to further guide my teaching practice.
The underlying principle of this book is that everyone can succeed when they employ a growth mindset, even at math. Eight years ago I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, my family and I decided for me to go back to school and get my education degree. I was not university material, when I graduated from high school it was with very average grades, most likely around a 60% overall average. However, when I entered university I did so with the mindset that I would succeed, and I set the goal that I would not get a grade less that a B-. I worked very hard and received two scholarships based on my GPA. I now have a name to put on my attitude - I had a growth mindset when I entered university. That mindset allowed me to successfully in complete my degree. I feel as if this book is speaking directly to me
I was "that" math student. I have my own math trauma story to share. I was in grade 7, and my math teacher asked me, "How don't you get it?" I didn't understand and he was unable to help me understand it. I struggled with math right up to the end of grade 12. I have had to devise unorthodox ways to arrive at a math answer. I feel that because I struggled (notice the past tense) with math, that makes me a better math teacher. I can see why a student doesn't "get it" because I was (again, past tense) that student. I know the fear of standing at the chalk board trying to complete a math question in front of the whole class. The strangest phenomenon happened, my brain just stopped. Nothing. Happened. The paralyzing fear of completing a math question in front of the class, is not a feeling you soon forget. For the record, I never make my students to that.
I agree with Boaler's comment that, "learning does not happen only in classrooms." I encouraged, in my end of the year report card comments, for parents to discuss math as it arises in day to day activities. Students need to be aware that math is all around us, not just something that happens from 9:00 to 10:20 Monday to Friday. Sometimes I would rearrange my classroom schedule and have math instead of a regularly scheduled class - the protests that arose from my students surprised me..."its not 9:00, we don't do math now!" The panic was palpable. I want my students to look forward to all of our subjects, I and they cannot afford to be afraid of math.
The study of neuroscience astounds me. If I had all the time and money in the world, I would go back to university and get my neuroscience degree. The mind is an amazing creature. I embrace the fact that, according to Boaler, "with the right teaching and messages, [everyone] can achieve at the highest levels in school," and that, "any levels of school math are within [a student's] reach." These are researched based statements and I agree, as I am living proof. I aim to seek, in the following chapters the knowledge that I need to ensure that all my students, "learn math well, not only those believed to hold a 'gift.'"
I believe it is important for me, as the teacher, to remember to praise the work and not the person. Instead of telling a student they are clever, I need to praise the process.
One idea that challenges my beliefs is that maturity does not factor into the student's ability to learn the concepts. Boaler tells us that if the student is unable to grasp the concept it is due to the fact prerequisite math has not been learned yet. With my experience, I felt that I was not "ready" to understand the concepts due to my maturity level. Now I believe that given the time, help, understanding and practice I would have been successful. That is my goal as a math educator, to help all my students understand and move forward confidently with their skills.
That's my view, from the 86th pew.