But how will you foster the ‘Mathematician’ in each of your students this year? What strategies will you use on Day 1 of the school year to begin to develop a community of active mathematicians who value problem solving exploring patterns and numerical relationships?
Here are a few quick reminders to get your year off on the right foot….
1. What do Good Mathematicians do?
We always talk about what Good Readers do… read for long periods of time, choose just right books, and read on a daily basis, just to name a few. Now it’s time to discuss what Good Mathematicians do!
On the first day of school, facilitate a conversation with your students and create an anchor chart with their thoughts. It may start off with phrases like…. work quietly, solve problems, or show your work. If so, this will be a great year, because you will show your students so much more about being a Mathematician!
Mathematicians love exploring numbers and making sense of problems. You may be thinking ‘My students do NOT love problem solving!”
- Introduce the Standards for Mathematical Practices to your students, using kid-friendly language. A great resource is right here…
- Dr. Barbara Blanke’s Posters – these are available for free for grades K-2, 3-5, English, and Spanish
- Begin to visualize the Practices in your classroom and enroll your students in reflecting on their work as a Mathematician.
2. Develop a whole-school math contract…
Often times, teachers and students use different language and vocabulary during math instruction. Some teachers may refer to base ten blocks as tens, sticks, rods, and so on. This becomes confusing for students as they transition from year to year as the content changes. In the case of base ten blocks, the value of the ‘unit’ may also change as students are asked to ‘Unitize,’ so allow time for vertical articulation among the grades and discuss the following:
- Consistent Academic Vocabulary
- Consistent representations / drawings
- Common use of the math block and instructional framework
- Common language for math learning stations (Math by Myself, Math with a Teacher, etc.)
- Misconceptions that expire over time
3. Foster a Growth Mindset for Math!
At this time, Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler have shared the value of fostering a growth mindset as a teacher and within your students.
- Model a growth mindset for your students. Show them how you have both an ‘inner critic’ and an ‘inner coach’. This inner coach is the voice that develops and protects your self-esteem. Show your students through a ‘Think Aloud’ how you replace the inner critic with an inner coach.
- Instead of saying… “this problem is too difficult” – think “what other strategies could I use?”
- Get your parents involved – share the value of a growth mindset with your parents and families through a newsletter or Back to School Night.
4. Set up Mathematician Journals
Journals are a powerful tool for students to use on a daily basis in Math class. Provide many opportunities for students to reflect, justify, and monitor their learning. Students can use their math journal to set personal math goals, lead teacher and parent conferences, and communicate progress on a regular basis with parents, all of which will develop meta-cognition in your students.
5. Allow for Ongoing Discovery
Avoid telling your students what to think, what strategy to use, or the steps to solve a problem. With the right approach, you can harness your student’s natural curiosity and promote a high level of student engagement. Trade in your worksheets for universal manipulatives. As a facilitator of learning, you will want to consider tasks that engage your students in investigations and exploring, rather than copying a set of procedures that you provided.
All of these strategies will be explored in more depth in future posts – be sure to check back and sign up for our newsletter!
This piece was written by our team member, Jennifer Marinello. If you love math as much as she does, visit her website, #KeepCalmAndLoveMath!