In his latest book, Embarrassment, And The Emotional Undelife of Learning, Tom Newkirk digs into the roots of what inhibits us as learners in and out of the classroom and offers strategies and practices that help kids and teachers alike develop a more resilient approach to embarrassment. Tom says "I contend that if we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do." The following is adapted from Tom's chapter on shame in the math classroom.
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When I mentioned the title of the chapter, “Math Shame,” to a fellow editor, she replied, “Actually I feel no shame at all. I’m just not good at math and I’m fine with that.”
There is probably no other required subject area, that we so regularly divide into the haves and have-nots—the ones good at math and then the rest of us. Math class is the motherland of the fixed mindset. For most of us, math never becomes a language, something that we can be fluent in. I suspect that for proficient math students equations must feel like sentences, as if there is a ready and seemingly natural syntax at their disposal.
Students may feel anxiety when the dial is turned to pure mathematical formulation too soon. And it occurs when the goal, always, is getting the exact right answer— when a good approximation will do.
In her new book, Motivated, author Ilana Seidel Horn outlines the features of a motivational classroom. Based on her research, Horn has found that a motivational classroom attends to the following five features:
students’ sense of belongingness
the meaningfulness of learning
structures for accountability
Teachers can foster all of these through deliberate instructional design as they tinker to motivate their students. Here's where to start:
Math in Practice can be used with nearly any math program or approach. To help you match your instruction with the books, we've created crosswalks to several commonly used math approaches and programs. These crosswalks are available for each grade level, and cover:
What is Cognitively Guided Instruction? Why do we do it?
Early on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with more than 200 teachers and administrators (and a few school board members) about Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI). The conversation started when I posed the questions, “What is CGI and why do we do it?”
The response was inspiring, thought-provoking, and humbling.
Inspiring because the ideas shared highlighted the wisdom and commitment to young people.
Thought-provoking because the response pushed me to reconsider my own ideas of CGI.
Humbling because it reminded me about the power of collective work and how even in the most challenging times for education, together we can push back and work to change the status quo.
Before sharing what the group came up with, I want to explain why I began this conversation. Over the last year I have found myself needing to define or position CGI in particular ways. As I considered how I might do this, I recognized that CGI is not mine to define. CGI is not mine. It’s not even Tom Carpenter and Eliz Fennema’s. And it never has been.
“What is Math in Practice?” We get that a lot. It might be more important to first talk about whyMath in Practice.
Sometimes we look back to the “good old days” of teaching math with rose-colored glasses. But did everyone learn and love mathematics in those classrooms? What do you remember about math class when you were the student? What was a typical assignment? What did your classroom look like and sound like? As I listen to teachers across the country, I am struck by the similarity of their experiences as they recall:
lots of memorizing
a teacher telling how to do it
one right answer
one way to get the answer
no group work
We know that one of the biggest changes in the teaching of math is a new definition of proficiency. Computation skills are still important, but it takes more than that. We want our students to understand why math works.
In this research journey, where I have been trying to map successful literacy workshop practices onto a math workshop, I have been considering the element of choice a great deal. From a very young age, children are taught how to select “just-right books.” The emphasis is on choice. Choice matters because it increases engagement. Choice matters because it encourages ownership. Choice matters because when our children leave us, we need them to continue choosing to read whether we are there or not. We teach them to choose books so that they will continue to choose books for their entire lives.