Motivated in Math

After school, two girls came out to library, where we’re currently running our classes. I used Equate as a warm-up, then gave a math lesson on integers. I used coloured wooded cubes (positive integers) and uncoloured wooden cubes (negative integers) to demonstrate how to add integers*. I’d only used this method once to teach a Grade 6 student down south, but it was exciting to see these kids clicking very quickly; they started seeing patterns and, up until the end of our class, wanted to continue practicing what they’d just learned. These are the moments I work for!

More amazingly is the fact that a third girl, T., is only in Grade 5. I’d let her in on the condition that she would be working with us, even though she’s not part of our program. In fact, T. was picking up patterns faster than the other two. When we played ‘Integer War** with a deck of cards, she was doing the calculations faster than the others.

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It’s unfortunate that strong kids often don’t get the enrichment they deserve. As I think back to my childhood, I was lucky to be identified in Grade 4. I went through the next 9 years of school in the gifted program, getting teachers that encouraged and challenged us, and giving us the stimulation that we needed to keep us interested and motivated. There aren’t the same opportunities here. Sadly, smart kids up here learn quickly to suppress their intelligence; there’s no advantage to standing out as a “smarty-pants”. Instead, you end up being excluded because you’re too good for everyone else. I look at T. and I see that she is definitely is hungry for knowledge. At the end of the class, when I let her out of the school, she shyly asked if she could return again. I told her that I was very proud of her work today and would gladly welcome her as long as I was still in the community. It was a great way to end the work day.

I’m still wondering whether I should apply to work in the elementary next year. I would love to teach the Secondary Is; they all seem very sweet. The older kids, I’ve found, are not motivated very much. It would be much more draining to work with the Secondary IVs or Vs. Part of me would prefer to have a regular classroom and be able to get the kids here building their numeracy and literacy skills. Yet, having taught the Secondary IV science curriculum, there would be a lot less lesson-planning. Of course, I might not have much of a choice. Whatever I end up with, I’ll still try my hardest.

*A coloured cube and a wooden cube add up to zero and ‘cancel’ each other out.

*Assign red-coloured cards as negative integer and black-coloured cards as positive integers (i.e. eight of  clubs is considered +8). Students flip cards from the top of their decks and add the numbers together. First person to state the correct sum wins the cards.

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