Tag Archives: Education

How Does Math Make You Feel?

Session 1 - Concept Map

Well, I hope math doesn’t make you feel like the Stanford University freshmen (see the concept map, above) who were interviewed for the OpenEdX course entitled How to Learn Math.  You might think anyone who was accepted into Stanford would be good at math (and feel good about their abilities), but not so.  In fact, the professor (Jo Boaler) includes in the first class session an interview with a scientist from the UK who, when awarded a medal by the Queen, still harbored feelings of math inadequacy.

Many thanks to Karl Fisch, for his blog post that pointed me in the direction of this class.  One minute I was reading about Karl’s introductory assignment for his students and parents, and the next thing I knew I was signing up for the class.  This is just up my alley and I am really enjoying it.  (Oh, and did I mention, the class is free!)

The concept map is one of my first assignments.  After listening to the students talk about their school math experiences,  I created the concept map to capture the essence of their responses.  I think it came out pretty well.  I’m interested to see what some of the other 20,000 (!) students came up with and if anyone had a different take.  Back to class!

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Start at the beginning.

Mathematics.  That word … it makes so many people cringe.  Not me.  I’m someone who always loved math, even though advanced math didn’t necessarily come easily.  So, it was natural that I looked to mathematics when my career seemed isolating and empty and I decided I needed a change.  But not just any change; I wanted to do something I was passionate about, something worthwhile.  I had been volunteering in middle school math classrooms and saw a need for helping students understand math.  Fast-forward a few years, and I have a master’s degree and a secondary math teaching credential.  I can’t decide – do I teach middle school or high school?  Or, do I go back to school so I can be a math specialist in elementary schools because that’s where the trains leave the tracks, if you know what I mean; that’s where kids decide “I can’t do math.”

Then, I’m sent in a new direction by a chance encounter and a phrase that resonated: teach students math all over again, starting with Kindergarten.  This seemed to encompass both my desire to help students comprehend math AND my personal need to know the entire curriculum – from Kindergarten through Calculus.  A broad mathematical understanding is necessary for helping students regardless of grade level, and I knew it would allow me to ascertain what skills and concepts students were lacking as well as how best to position them for the mathematics that lay ahead.

This blog is the account of my journey to understand (and understand how to teach) the entire K-12 math curriculum using the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as both a framework and a jumping off point.  To begin with, I plan to create a series of CCSS-based assessments that, when given to students who need help, will illuminate missing foundation concepts (beginning  with Kindergarten) and provide a starting point for targeted assistance.  In the end, I hope to have a complete and useful set of assessments, plenty of online references, and a collection of tasks and lessons full of authentic and challenging problems.  Oh, and by-the-way, I’ll also have an intuitive and connected understanding of the whole K-12 mathematics arc.  This should be fun.  All I need now is someone to collaborate with.  Are you with me?  We start at the beginning.  We begin with Kindergarten…