Lecture 2 Prep

Our prep for Lecture 2 was to choose 2 out of 4 videos to watch. The videos were:

Jo Boaler – Everyone can be good at math

Dan Finkel – Extraordinary math teaching

Melissa Soto – Uprooting Math anxiety

John Bennett – Do we need math?

The first video I watched with Jo Boaler stated that it had been scientifically proven that there are no “math people”, people that are more naturally gifted with math. Another interesting fact was that we should allow children to use their fingers in math (Boaler). “Not allowing children to use their fingers is akin to halting their mathematical development” – Jo Boaler. I loved watching this video because it questioned what we have previously taught in schools and backed it up with science. For example, it was highly frowned upon to use fingers to count when you should be able to do it in your head. A lot of adults have gone through life thinking they are ‘stupid’ at math, because if they didn’t get something or counted with their fingers they were treated that way. When you are treated like you are stupid at math than you are likely to believe it about yourself, particularly if this occurs over a long period of time. Another thing I loved about this video was that she really challenged our cultural thinking. Why do we have math anxiety? We don’t have English anxiety or science anxiety. Why only math? What is it about math that makes people have such anxiety about it? She brought it back to the emotional scarring that took place to these individuals, likely in the elementary grades, that made them feel high anxiety.

The second video I watched was the other TEDx Talk by Don Finkel. One of the key points I noted was that when people aren’t comfortable with math they don’t question it at all (Finkel). It’s as if people are afraid to look bad if they don’t understand something. It is important to all the children the opportunity to question and be comfortable questioning. Don Finkel recommends that teachers start the class with a question; we want the children to imagine a possible solution and to think critically about a problem rather than being the answer key for them. Also, allow the children time to think about problems, don’t rush them to an answer as “it robs children of the opportunity to learn… [the best] thinking happens when we have time to struggle to an answer” (Finkel). Another point that he made that I really loved was that not knowing an answer is not failure and we need to model this ourselves to students (Finkel). Math isn’t about just following the rules, we don’t want to create “passive rule followers”, we want to create “authentic mathematical thinkers” (Finkel).

Both of these videos added value to me as a preservice teacher. The way in which the two speakers looked at math in different ways than I have seen throughout most of my schooling was enlightening. I neither liked, nor hated math in school. I saw it as a means to an end; I wanted to go to university and to go into the science program I needed it. Although I did math through to grade 12 and some in university I always felt that I learned the most math through everyday activities, such as baking, building, sewing, and playing games. The math at school I completed to get a mark. The stuff that stuck with me was the stuff I use/d in hobbies and work, in a more concrete way. The math that was fun for me and that I didn’t feel anxious about. These videos brought up these memories for me and how I want to teach math to children. I want my students to think math is fun and useful to them in their lives, not a means to an end. I was really happy and excited at the end of watching these videos because it was clear to me that math in schools has changed a lot since I was in elementary school over 20 years ago (and thank goodness!). I am excited to teach math and to have my students be excited about it as well!

The other prep for class was to compare and contrast the new curriculum with the old curriculum. The two curriculums really aren’t that much different for math at all. The content and curricular competencies have remained much the same with the addition of a First Nation’s section and slightly different language usage. The biggest difference that I noted was the new curriculum cut the jargon to a minimum, so that only the necessary information was there. The old curriculum had upwards of 30 pages of explanation before even getting into the curriculum.

One thing I noted about the new curriculum was that the math curriculum when compared to other subjects was much more in-depth and elaborated on explicitly. I wondered why that is? Perhaps it is because a lot of people, including teachers are not comfortable teaching math and need more direction? Or maybe because as a culture we tend to place more value on math and science. Whatever the reason, I found it interesting and believe it will be helpful for me when I begin making lessons.

Lecture 2

“The depressing thing about arithmetic badly taught, is that it destroys a child’s intellect, and to some extent, his integrity. Before they’re taught arithmetic, children will not give their assent to utter nonsense; afterwards, they will.” – An English mathematician, Walter Sawyer

“There should be considerable time in every single mathematics class for students to discuss the mathematical ideas. Otherwise they’re missing out on one of the most important learning experiences they can have.” – Jo Boaler

These two quotes were included in the class notes and I loved them so much I wanted to keep them on my blog where I can access them in the future.

During class we reflected on why using games in class is a useful strategy. Games makes math fun for the children and when math is fun learning is fun and the children look forward to it, rather than developing ‘math anxiety’. One thing I noted in the lecture was that these games should not involve speed. Speed favours the child that is better at math and can cause anxiety in a struggling child. Instead choose to use chance oriented games. For example, the make 24 dice game where you roll four numbered dice and come up with ways to make 24 using math (subtraction, addition, multiplication, and division).

Another key point I noted was that as teachers we need to find where students are at and then challenge them just above that. This is called the zone of proximal development.

Teach CONCEPTS FIRST and THEN PROCEDURES. This will help the students to develop an understanding of the math, not just how to carry out a task. We want to develop understanding and critical thinking with our students, not rule followers.