As a parent of two kids, aged 10 and 12 I am learning many things about tweens! I am learning new acronyms for texting, "bad" words I wasn't aware of, and that bathing everyday does not necessarily occur without adult reminders. My new understanding of tweens could fill an entire blog post.. but my children might not appreciate that.
This weekend in a discussion with my two tweens, I learned something I wasn't necessary surprised by, but was deeply saddened about. We were talking about the subject of Mathematics and I was asked what they were doing at school. In unison both my children groaned about their dislike for the subject. As a passionate Math teacher, I commented that they just needed to try seeing the beauty of the subject. Both started laughing and said "Mom, don't you know what MATH stands for?" Puzzled I said "no". They then they proceeded to inform me that in their minds, and apparently the minds of "all of their peers" Math stood for "Mental Abuse To Humans". Perhaps I have been living under some rock of Math utopia, but I was surprised that my kid's generation thought this way.
I prodded both kids a little further and asked if they really believed this saying about Math? How could my kids not value Math? I mean they have had some experiences at home with me and I know they have had some excellent teachers who have taught Math in engaging ways... But something I have noticed, is that as they have moved up into the intermediate grades much of their experiences with Math have been through interactions with text books. I am not saying that using a text book is all bad or that teachers who use text books are wrong to do so, but I think texts tend to focus on paper and pencil exercises where discrete skills and concepts with little context are the focus. Similarly facts and algorithms are told to students, as opposed to having the learners discover different strategies that work and make sense to them. Texts also do not tend to emphasize collaboration; therefore, much of the work is done in isolation. Looking at Math through these types of experiences, I could see how my kids viewed Math as boring and tortuous (yes, that was a word they used!).
Teachers have tough jobs, especially at the Elementary level where they are required to be knowledgeable of many curricular areas. Teachers want to engage students in Mathematics but often either don't have the time to or knowledge of what resources needed to shift their practice. Teacher preparation schools (e.g., Universities) aren't much help either. Often, teacher candidates get less than 24 hours of Math instruction to prepare them to teach Math from Kindergarten to Grade Seven.
My point in all this discussion is that teachers like myself, who are lucky enough to focus solely on Math education education, need to create places where we share key resources, ideas, and stories from our classes. Similar to our students, we need to connect, collaborate, and learn from each other. As disappointed as was with my discussion with my kids and their negative disposition to Mathematics, it reminded me of the urgency. We must unite in our plight to develop children who love Mathematics! Hearing my children's voices about Math was just the nudge I needed to push me to finally curate this site... it had been percolating in my mind for awhile. Our Mathematical moments/stories have value and they have the power to inspire others. I am ready to begin sharing my stories. Are you?
If you are a Mathematics educator who blogs about your practice, I encourage you to share your stories! We can make positive change!
I am a Numeracy Helping Teacher with the Surrey Schools District. Each day I am thankful for being able to work with amazing students and teachers in an area I am passionate about ~ Mathematics!
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