Thursday, September 7, 2017

Setting Goals as Mathematicians

Before school started I created posters based on Tracy Zager's book Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had.  Here is a link to the posters.  I decided I wanted to draw my students attention to these posters.  So on day 2 of class asked my students to read the posters and answer these questions.

  • What stands out to you the most? Why?
    • I was curious as to what they would say.  I love everything about these posters, but maybe something in particular would resonate with a student.  
  • Give an example of something on the posters that you have done.
    • I wanted them to start to realize that they are already mathematicians and they already do many if not all of these things.  
  • Pick one of the things on the posters that you would like to work on this year
    • Typically when students are asked to create goals they say they want to get As, work hard, or study more. Having these characteristics defined should make it easier for us to monitor and track this goal.
This activity took about 5 minutes and here is what I learned:

As much as we talk growth mindset and learning through mistakes this is not the message these students are hearing. (I blogged about this a little while ago.) I need to work to create a classroom where value is placed on the process and not the answers. And in 7th grade I think it is going to have to be extreme in order to offset the effect that letter grades (their first time getting them) will have on their perspective.

Showing work and explaining thinking is seen as busy work.  "If I have the right answer why do I have explain it?" If the students are just working independently to find a solution that will not be discussed or have talked something out with a group sharing their explanations verbally, then it possible that showing work is busy work.  I am going to have to go back to Tracy's book again.  The chapter on reasoning and proving really helped me to see the mathematician view of these and I want to be sure to share that perspective with my students.  

How true is this one? My daughter starting talking to me about text to self connections in first grade.  Then I learned about text to text and text to world (she is a little teacher and likes to make sure I know my reading skills).  Seriously, let's start bringing this to math. I think an exit slip might be where I start with this one.

Yea! I am excited to have discussions about these this year.  This is why I loved Tracy's book so much.  There are key parts of being a mathematician that we need more of in the math classroom.  We need to trust and doubt ourselves.  Don't assume your answer is right (or for those lacking confidence, wrong).  Finding a solution is not an end to the problem.  There is still so much work to be done.  I absolutely love that students noticed and questioned these aspects of being a mathematician.

As for our goal setting, the top 2 responses for what students want to work on were taking risks and asking questions.  I think this example shows that for many those two go hand in hand.  I plan to use this as a launching point next week for creating some class norms that will help ensure we have an environment where students feel safe asking questions and taking risks.  I'll keep you posted.

If you are interested in my other  Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had blog posts you can find a complete list here.


  1. This is so fantastic, Adrianne! What a great way to open conversations. Thank you so much for blogging about it!

    1. I was surprised at how easy it was and how much I was able to take away from it. Thank you for sharing my post. I hope others are inspired to try something similar.

  2. I love this reflection on the posters! When I saw Annie Fetter speak for the first time about sense making, I made these posters to reinforce importance of reading strategies in math. Your comment about connections reminded me about them.

    1. Laura,
      Thank you so much for sharing this. These posters are great. The ideas are very connected with the ideas from Tracy's book. There are so many strategies from ELA that relate to math and having never taught reading or writing I always love to connect with those teachers. I learn so much every time.

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