I Can’t Afford Not To

When I share with teachers what my students do outside of the textbook/curriculum, I get the familiar and reasonable concern from them that there’s not enough time to cover the content as is, how is it possible to do “other stuff,” such as:

  1. Math Munch
  2. Problem Solving (weekly, in-class, group)
  3. Math Talks (including Visual Patterns)

My reasons for doing the above, respectively, are:

  1. I want my kids to take pleasure in seeing how beautiful math is, to appreciate the elegant proofs, to imagine the possibilities.
  2. I want my kids to think deeply, to struggle, to persevere, to honor the process of problem solving instead of just answer getting. These skills directly help students with content material.
  3. I want my kids to share their thinking out loud because a quiet math classroom is a scary place.

It’s very simple in my mind why I do what I do. If my administrators told me tomorrow that I could no longer do any of these, then I know it would be time for me to leave the classroom. I don’t follow fads and reforms and jargon. I don’t enter into those conversations in real life or online because I don’t know how or have anything to say.

I want to follow these reflections that my kids (6th graders) write:

First of all, the equations are coming so much easier to me! I think what helped me is opening up my mind to other methods, and trying out methods that I’ve seen other people use. I feel that the reason I have trouble with some problems is that in my mind, I make the problem seem so much harder than it actually is. After doing them week after week, everything is coming to me a lot easier than they used to.

This week I have learned a lot. I’ve learned new methods of solving problems and reviewed old ones too. Math Talks have helped me a lot in homework and class work too. God I’m brilliant.

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So I have a lot to reflect on because there were a lot of Math Talks. I really liked the shopping problem because, you know, I’m a girl, and I like shopping. Sometimes I don’t get anything about a problem or pattern at all, then someone explains it really well and I get it. And I think, “Why didn’t I see that?” That happens to me a lot.

The next time I think I could think a bit more because this time, now I thought I should have thought about it a little more, seeing all the other people’s answers got me to think that I should have done better. Yesterday I wish I raised my hand before some other people because I had it up and other people were saying the same thing as me.

To improve I could get more time and after talking to Mrs Nguyen I understand more when she explains it better. The thing I found most difficult is problem solving & solve the patterns because it is hard to finish up mentally.

After talking to others it always makes more sense and they help. To improve I could get here earlier.

I think I’m getting stronger each day doing mental math and patterns. My favorite math talk this week was the pattern on 2-26-14, I thought it was clever because towards the end it wasn’t the rule, it was your rule.

I really loved the math talk on last week’s Friday. It was the buy one get one free or get 45% off. Because after you told us the answer and it could go either way, I thought to myself like how didn’t I figure that out. So there’s no right or wrong to the question.

I thought the guess-and-check that Cristian did was very helpful and it really helped me learned the strategy.

This week of math talks was very fun. I like the problem solving puzzles and equations. After talking to Skylar, she helped me understand the problems more.

This week I had better understanding with math talks. The one that really helped me was Janae’s; it was different and extravagant.

My favorite day this week was “would you rather get 45% off everything or buy one get one free.” Although it was simple, it was fun to share our different opinions.

One of this week’s math talks equation that really helped me understand was Seth’s equation from Thursday. It was when you divide money but you ignore the decimal and add it in later. This one helped me a lot.

On 2/21/14 math talk I did not get it at all, then when Diego explained how you were supposed to do it, I got it and that was good.

I am going to use different kinds of math strategies that everyone was using because some of the strategies help me solve a problem faster.

What I’m reading is that they value their classmates’ different ways of doing mathematics; they benefit from them.

A month ago Sam Shah started Explore Mathematics! with his Advanced Precalculus class, then last week Sam shared with me what one student had written:

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I choose to dedicate some of our math time to explore out-of-content mathematics because I can’t afford not to.

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