Math on the Mind

I’ve become more comfortable with teaching science. While a few months alone doesn’t mean I’ve mastered the entire curriculum – astronomy continues to be an area that scares and confounds me – I’ve started considering what it’d be like if I taught math as well.

A few weeks ago, I asked V., the head of the special education department about the remedial classes at school. It shocked me to find out that we don’t offer remedial math. I asked the principal if she’d consider putting this on my workload next year and she replied that she’d be more than happy to consider it.

Since then, I’ve had math on my mind … a lot.

This morning, I woke up and spent a few hours researching potential math workshops for the PD days next year. I know, total nerd; sitting in my PJs on Saturday morning reading about number crunching! I also read a few chapters of John Mighton’s book, The Myth of Ability. I’m enjoying it and am very curious about the JUMP program, which actually started off in Toronto. There are webinars ($49/teacher) available and I sent an email to a colleague proposing that it be included in next year’s agenda.

I would also love to see Wendy Hill’s do her 2-hour workshop in Waskaganish! Last year, I fell in love with the Learning Carpet when I saw her speak at the OAME conference in Toronto. If only the thing wasn’t $300!

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Why do I feel the need to improve how teachers teach math at our school?

Well, I work in a culture where few parents talk about math with kids*. The Cree language itself is rather limited and there are actually no words to express fractions (since there was no need for it). There are still 16-year-olds that will use a calculator for fifty divided by two and can’t compute seventeen minus four as mental math. There are kids here that don’t know which function – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – to use when given a simple problem. It’s a big problem, by the time they reach secondary 4 and need to attempt a provincial exam that they will most likely fail.

We also have both certified and uncertified teachers with a wide range of skills; it’s unnerving to know that female teachers with anxiety around math can actually cause female students to have it too. Yes, a bad teacher can actually cause students to become worse!

Therefore, things need to change. There isn’t much passion around the school for math and I don’t mind kicking up a few initiatives. My main goal right now is to get the principal to approve a school-wide license with OnBoard Academics, the company with which I bought an annual single-license user subscription. The only problem is trying to book a time with her, so the sales department can pitch their product in a 30-minute webinar.

That’s my new mission this month! I won’t be able to attend this year’s OAME conference, as it is actually the week after Goose Break, but if you know of any awesome math programs, please send them this way.

*A study in 2010 showed that parents can have a strong impact on whether kids take an interest in math at school.

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One thought on “Math on the Mind

  1. Pingback: Why Being Someone’s “Favourite” Is Not a Compliment | Stumbling Through My Thirties

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