A Teacher's Perspective on the 2017 MCTM Conference
Attending the MCTM math conference in Duluth really got me thinking about math identity. How do we build up our students' math identity rather than just divide them into math and non-math people? On the last morning of the conference, I attended a session that helped me really think about that in some new ways.
The session was called Instructional Strategies to Promote Positive Math Identity and the presenter is a teacher in the the Anoka-Hennepin school district. She started by walking us through an activity where she asked us each to write our math-ography.
We answered the following questions:
It was really interesting just to see how the different adults did this activity. I’m a pretty linear thinker, so I divided my paper into 4 sections and answered each question in a different section. I saw others that wrote lists or paragraphs, while others drew pictures. It didn’t matter how we did it, it still got us thinking and then talking about math. Often, there isn’t enough of that happening in most of our math classrooms.
I have been thinking about how I could use this in my own classroom. I think that I would adapt the questions some for my students: for example, I think that I might change the question about where they want their math journey to go to something more specific about goals. I have done something similar to this in the past during the first week of school, but I like this idea of presenting it as a 'math journey' better.
Plus, having students write in math is something that I struggle with as a teacher and this activity helps to address that--not that all students would need to approach this as a writing assignment.
The presenter also suggested having the students do this more than just during that first week of school--having them revisit throughout the year. Personally, I love this idea! I think that I’d like my students to do this activity three times a year, during the first week, at the end of first semester, and again at the end of the year. I would love to see if kids view math differently at the end of my class. Of course, I want my students to know, understand, and be able to apply the standards that I teach, but I also work to build their confidence in math, and I hope that I can instill at least a little bit of the love that I have for math in them. I think that this might give me just as much information about the growth of my students and the effect of my teaching as giving a survey at the end of the year.
I also took away many other ideas from the conference to use in my classroom. Some are ideas about specific activities to do, especially around the idea of math discourse in class, others are about changing the way that I approach what and how I’m teaching. For me, the best part of going to a conference or taking time to work and plan with other math teachers is challenging myself to look at things differently, to try to stretch and grow in my teaching. I hope that I never stop learning or stop trying to improve.
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