My school year ends in about two weeks. It’s tough to believe, but the school year is almost over. The kids know it, the administrators do, and so do the teachers. Classroom decorations are coming down and boxes are being packed. Summer is just around the corner and I’m in reflection mode. Overall, it’s been a productive year. I took a few risks and tried out a few new activities this year. They mostly turned out well, and I’m keeping the majority of them for next year’s classes. In a week, I’ll be surveying my kids and asking them about their favorite math activities and memorable experiences. Through this process I’m asking students to reflect on their math experiences this year. I’m also asking them to comment on how their perception of math has changed over the year. In years past, some students have commented that they enjoyed certain activities, but what they remember is the activity, not necessarily the math involved. This often comes up when my elementary students come back to see their teachers after moving on to middle or high school.
Other students comment that they enjoyed more of the procedural aspects of math because they were easier to complete and understand. Looking back at my own math experience, I don’t really remember getting excited about learning certain math skills/concepts during an activity. My memory isn’t connected to the particular skills that I learned during these activities. The activities were meaningful to me and I’m assuming that the skills transferred, but I mostly remember how I felt in math class. My math teachers, specifically the ones I had after middle school impacted my perception of mathematics. I remember math activities, how my teacher viewed math, working with other students, math manipulative and math projects. As my students reflect on their math journey this year I need to keep in mind the influence that teachers have along the way.
On a daily basis, students will use skills and make math connections that align with posted mastery objectives. What students remember might be completely different than the stated objective for the day. I feel as though part of my job is to have students make meaningful math connections on a daily basis. Activities that spur these types of opportunities are beneficial. Creating opportunities for these memorable math activities is part of the job and it’s one of the reasons that I enjoy opening up my classroom door in the morning.