Math Sense, Chapter 6, The Feel of It All - Math Coach's Corner

Welcome back to our book study! We are currently reading Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Math Instruction, by Christine Moynihan. Are you just joining in? Get caught up with these links to previous chapters.

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Here’s the reading schedule (use the links to visit any of the posts):

Chapter 6, The Feel of It All

Last week I declared Chapter 5 my favorite chapter. This week I learned not to play favorites! Ha ha. Here’s a great quote to start us off:

“Anyone who has ever taught math knows that affective considerations–feelings and attitudes–greatly influence student performance.”

Let’s face it, many people have negative feelings about math–doing it, learning it, teaching it. Those feelings are often validated by the comments of well-meaning parents, friends, or colleagues–Yeah, me too! or Don’t worry, I was never good at math either!. That is clearly an obstacle we have to overcome in our classrooms and sometimes even in ourselves. This chapter gives us a glimpse into what a math classroom can and should feel like.

The Important Book has long been a favorite of mine to use in math class. I have used it both for kids to tell what they know about a specific math topic (geometry, multiplication, etc.) and, as Moynihan described, for them to share their general feelings about math. Used as the latter, it can give us a wealth of information about our students’ perceptions of math, which is a great starting point for building a classroom culture of curiosity, collaboration, and creativity.

A pervasive thread through this whole chapter is that the learning is in the hands of the students, getting back to the idea that the teacher’s role is that of facilitator. Think about it, the more students are able to share their ideas without the risk of ridicule, the more confident they become. As students collaborate with others and have a sounding board for their ideas, they are willing to take more risks. Which, in turn, builds confidence, pride, and enthusiasm.

So let’s look at another recurring theme:

“If so, then you know that this teacher has set purposeful learning into motion by presenting mathematical tasks that will bring about new learning, solidify prior learning, and do so with clarity and intentionality.”

“The classroom teacher had obviously done her job in establishing trust between her and her students as well as among her students.”

“If you see this, it has not come about by accident. It is the result of the calculated and consistent work of the teacher, who has convinced her students that collaborating only makes them stronger and better learners.”

“This component–creativity/imagination must be watered daily by the teacher if it is to take root and grow.”

The point here is pretty obvious–creating a “place where rich mathematics happens for each student” takes effort and planning on the part of the teacher, and it does not happen overnight. I think the process begins with honest self-reflection (as does any form of meaningful change). And that’s exactly where Chapter 7 takes us!

Water your garden well this week. 🙂

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