A news item by the BBC has led many viewers to my blog in recent days. According to a recent report, primary teachers in Great Britain are scared of math, which results in poor math teaching.
I can’t say much about primary teachers, especially in Great Britain, but in 2006 I consulted with about 100 teachers of adult numeracy, GED and Adult Basic Education math classes (whole numbers through algebra) about bringing their teaching practices into line with research findings. I didn’t find them scared of math, but I did find specific barriers that prevented them from improving their teaching practice. (You will find a fuller description of my study in the introduction to Changing the Way We Teach Math.)
As a basis for discussion with these math instructors, I used principles from “Instructional Strategies for Teaching Adult Numeracy Skills” by Lynda Ginsburg and Iddo Gal. They include strategies such as determining what learners know before beginning instruction on a topic; looking at learners’ attitudes about math; using manipulatives; developing skills in estimation and Continue reading
When a feeling is not a feeling…
I don’t trust words that end in “-ed” when they are used to describe emotions.
Take “loved” for example, as in “I feel loved.” Well, no, “loved” is not a feeling. That sentence really means that you have noticed that someone loves you. What you feel is another thing. You may feel happy, joyful, ecstatic; you may feel love in return for the person who loves you.
On the other hand, if the person who loves you is a spouse that you want to divorce, you may feel guilty, sad, impatient, angry…. If the person who says “I love you,” is stalking you, you may be afraid, angry, anxious, curious…. Continue reading
When students can match 1/4 with 25% with .25, you know they have some understanding of the value of each.
When they go on to the much more difficult matching of 79/1000 with 7.9% and .079, you know their understanding has deepened.
When you ask for an explanation of their work and they don’t start and end with “Move the decimal to the left two spaces,” you know they are on to something!
Here’s a social math activity that extends the skill practice exercises in the workbook and online. A fuller explanation and all materials needed can be found on page 92 here in Changing the Way We Teach Math. Continue reading
“Pick a digit. Pick your favorite digit–any one you want, from the pile on the table.” That’s how the “human digits” activity starts. It’s another social math activity, this one to teach place value, and to practice reading big numbers.
Make a Safer Space
I know I’m going to ask people to get themselves into groups, and some people will hang back and wait to be invited to join a group, which is stressful, and others will be nervous about being on their feet and not knowing what I have in store for them. So I put some energy into making the space more comfortable for everyone. Continue reading
We rarely know how far our work goes, but once I got a glimpse—
I was working with some parents on producing a manual of family math activities (Family Math Fun!). We met twice a week for 11 weeks.
Jeannie (not her real name) only came to the first session, where I showed the group how to play Yahtzee, and gave them all dice and score cards to take home. We played a few rounds so that everyone got familiar with the game.
As the project came to a close a few months later, I asked all the participants to come in for a final interview, and Jeannie was happy to come.
Since she had attended only one session, I did not expect her to have got much benefit from the group, but I simply asked my first question, “Has coming to this group made any changes in your life?” She answered with a decisive yes.
She said that she and her husband got along better, as did the kids. “We have better communication. I see my daughters helping each other with school math by using a ruler or calendar, explaining, not just giving the answer.”
I asked what had made the change. Continue reading