2/12/2019 0 Comments
Math has an unfortunate history of a bad reputation. In my opinion though, this reputation comes from some harmful myths associated with it. As math teachers, let’s dispel these myths!
Here are 4 common myths:
1. Math is logical, so it can’t be creative
Yes, math is logical, but it is also highly creative. It’s not black and white.
Creativity does not tend to take center stage in many typical math classrooms, although it has been proven to have many benefits.
According to The Lab School, creativity is a large part of STEM education.
“The educational community largely embraces the notion that creative expression is an important aspect of a student’s learning experience. We also know that exposure to the arts and arts-integrated instruction has positive educational benefits, especially for learners who have not succeeded in typical learning environments.”
Art encourages students to think critically, ask questions, and investigate. These acts are all powerful in math education.
Creativity has the added bonus of fun and relaxation. Students love to have the opportunity to relax and use their creative sides. School days can be monotonous for our middle and high school students, so art and creativity in math class is the perfect way to break up the day!
One of the simplest ways to integrate creativity into math class is through incorporating doodles, sketches, and visual representations. A recent study proved that doodling actually INCREASES focus and the ability to recall new information. This, along with other research leads to the benefits of the doodle note method! With these color-it-in, doodle-friendly guided notes, your students can use their colored pencils and the right side of their brains, and then remember key vocabulary, math examples, and new concepts more easily.
2. You have to sacrifice time or achievement in math class to add “fun”
With the constant need to please administration and live up to national standards, some teachers might be thinking there is no way to add fun activities in math class. Some believe that adding “fun” in math class means adding fluff and wasting time.
And often, that is true. When teachers just aim for a “fun day,” it can often be at the expense of rigorous learning.
However, fun and rigor in math can be combined. If you do it right, you don’t need to sacrifice anything to make math a blast for your class!
There are many ways to keep class fun and interesting while still accomplishing lesson goals and keeping a high standard of expectations. Select tasks that can be done in teams that also require critical thinking, like “Always, Sometimes, Never” challenges or picture equation puzzles. Keep things fun and creative with activities, puzzles, and doodle notes. Another fun way to make math class a blast without making sacrifices is by incorporating collaborative games or “Choose your Own Journey Books”!
3. “Rigor” is just making content harder or doing more
When someone says adding rigor to a lesson is just making it “harder” or doing more problems, they are incorrect.
According to Eye on Education, rigor is not about the content being taught. It’s about how the students are interacting with it and thinking about it.
It cannot be measured by how much a student is doing. So, if a teacher piles on practice problems for homework, he or she is not adding rigor.
“True rigor is expecting every student to learn and perform at high levels. This requires instruction that allows students to delve deeply into their learning, to engage in critical thinking and problem-solving activities, to be curious and imaginative, and to demonstrate agility and adaptability.”
Adding rigor to your lessons requires rich tasks, risk discourse, and good questions. You need to challenge your students to think critically about the content in a healthy way.
I’ve written more about what it really means to have enough rigor in math class here.
4. Inquiry learning is not practical. It just becomes a free-for-all and is hard to plan and control
In my recent post, Why I Started Math Giraffe, I shared my firm beliefs on different areas of math education. I believe that the discovery process allows students to take ownership of the material, understand the content more deeply, and remember the concepts.
Inquiry style lessons, or investigations, do not need to be free-for-alls. They guide students to discover properties, formulas, and concepts for themselves. Instead of presenting students with a formula or rule, you give them a lesson that is structured to help them develop the formula or rule on their own.
Most teachers find it easy to allow young students to explore, but up in middle school and high school, incorporating inquiry-based learning can be pretty challenging as far as lesson planning. However, it is just as important as ever that at this age, students discover properties for themselves. As the teacher, it's not as hard as you may think to direct this exploration.
To help with this challenge, I’ve developed the “S.P.O.R.T.” method.
S- Specific cases & examples
P- Patterns (What do you notice?)
O- Observations in writing
R- Rule (Generalizing the pattern)
T- Test & Check (Does your rule always work?)
To read more about it and see a specific sample lesson, go here.
What are some other common myths in math education? These are the ones that tend to bug me, but if you have your own "pet peeve" of a myth, leave it in a comment below.
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The Goal: Guiding Teachers to Incorporate CREATIVITY into Analytical, Logic-Oriented Math Classes
Have you ever wondered where Math Giraffe came from, who I am, or why I do what I do?
Well here’s the scoop for those of you who have the more curious minds ;)
I’m Brigid…I am obviously a math dork, but I'm also a wife and a mom. I’ve got a lot of those typical “teacher” characteristics you think of when you imagine a math teacher – I like to bake, organize, plan with sticky notes, and reign with tough and logical discipline blended with never-ending love. But then I also have some twists God threw in to spice it up. It turns out that even though I’ve got a very analytical and logical math mind, I also have a huge dose of creativity in my brain. I’ve always been into designing unique things around the house, on the computer, and in the yard. I was into scrapbooking and floorplan designing as a kid. I created special gift boxes that I sold as a little girl, and my mom still has one or two that she uses! I have slowly come to realize that I think of math more visually than most Algebra- oriented minds do.
I have a wonderful husband who cooks our meals, builds our furniture, and makes our home peaceful and happy every day (and that’s all on top of his actual job!). We have a very sweet little girl and a fun and spunky toddler son. I started out teaching in Ohio. After spending a couple years in Texas on the US-Mexico border, we moved back up north - closer to family. (Yay!) While I am certainly loving the hiking, campfires, and snow up here, I really miss my palm trees and sunshine! I am a summer girl at heart.
Over the past years, I’ve discovered that math students really do have a need for the creative design and unique ideas that I enjoy building. My goal is to help logical left-brained math teachers like me to integrate creativity in each and every math classroom! Today, I want to share how my beliefs about teaching math transformed into a platform dedicated to guide you in building engagement and creativity into your classroom!
I started out as a middle school teacher in Ohio teaching 6th through 8th grade. I got hooked on inquiry-based learning, and I began to try to develop better ways to teach this way. I actually originally fell in love with inquiry in college when I took a class all about setting up GeoGebra exploration lessons to allow students in Analytic Geometry courses to investigate the principles. This way, they develop the formulas and notice the relationships themselves. It’s such a wonderful learning method, especially for Geometry.
My true passion is actually teaching high school Geometry, particularly proof and logic. After teaching middle school, I got to spend just a short time teaching high school Geometry in an all-girls Catholic school. It was an incredible experience. I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the all-girls atmosphere, since I was so used to being surrounded by boys. (I have 7 brothers).
I always tried to give my students a challenge and try to make everything really rigorous. I’m one of those teachers who teaches by setting the expectation level toward the top 50% of the class, but then differentiates as well, adding a TON of support. In Geometry periods, I started to notice how the new twist I added to teaching proofs made such a difference. It was a simple in-between step that no one was doing. It went such a long way to help their understanding and decrease frustration compared to the previous class that I had followed the traditional sequence with. I decided to put it into writing and share it in resources online to help other teachers do it this way too!
Shortly after having my daughter, I began creating more and more resources, and set up a blog to spread the word. I knew these methods I was starting to develop worked better than what most teachers were doing, and I wanted the world of math teachers to know it! Now, thousands of teachers are teaching proofs with my additional step and my own proof unit (with awesome success!), and hundreds of thousands of students have had an easier experience with the dreaded geometry proofs because of the tweaks! I got hooked on the community feeling, and the excitement of other math teachers when they could see these effects too. I kept at it!
Then, when doodle notes were born, even more teachers fell in love and saw an impact. It was so exciting for me to realize I was introducing a new method of note-taking that was more effective for focus and retention, and more accessible to students even than other visual methods like sketch notes. It is such a weird, but awesome feeling to see that now this strategy and these lesson pages are used in hundreds of thousands of classrooms. But I am loving the journey of sharing unique and creative ideas with math teachers around the world.
Next, more and more teachers started emailing asking for help with creating their own doodle notes, so I designed the Doodle Note Club, a place where teachers can access templates, graphics, and video training I've created to make it easy for them to build doodle notes for their own classrooms, no matter the subject area. And so it continued on -- As I got new types of requests, I just added more and more communities, resources, and ideas to help solve the problems that teachers asked for solutions to.
I never would have expected (or intended) to become a blogger or curriculum creator, but throughout this process, I discovered my love for creating teaching methods and resources. I have absolutely enjoyed serving teachers and students in a unique way. It's all about taking steps to teach math more effectively by teaching it more CREATIVELY!
Teachers are the heroes of their classrooms. They are rocking the world of education every single day and impacting so many students. My goal is to be a guide and a resource for you. I want to support more and more math teachers to discover that integrating creativity in math class leads to happier, more engaged students, as well as higher test scores!
I am passionate about a few things in the world of math ed, and my wish here is to spread that joy and passion to you in your own classroom.
I want your kids to light up instead of whining when you say it’s notes and lecture day.
I want your kids to get excited when they finally “see” why a mathematical property is true.
I want your kids to use their own creativity in math class instead of being restricted to only a logical left-brained typical math experience.
I want your kids to feel the success when they can visualize and remember what they learned as a result of both their teacher's creativity and their own creativity and ownership.
I want your kids to acheive the boost in memory and focus that leads to stronger, deeper learning.
I want you to see test scores rise in your class BECAUSE of engagement and creativity, not by SACRIFICING engagement and creativity for test prep!
So if you are still with me, here are my math class philosophies. If you care to join the party and stick with me here, click the links below. Also, be sure to subscribe to my email list to get free resources, updates, and ideas sent right to your inbox.
1) I believe…
that the discovery process allows students to take ownership of the material, understand the content more deeply, and remember the concepts. Inquiry style lessons, or investigations, guide students to discover properties, formulas, and concepts for themselves. Instead of presenting students with a formula or rule, you give them a lesson that is structured to help them develop the formula or rule on their own. When your class understands WHY the rule works and HOW it was developed, they do not have to memorize it - they can reproduce it themselves at any time!
The goal: Let kids discover properties themselves and write their own formulas that they’ll remember and understand
LINK: inquiry learning
2) I believe…
that math isn’t just memorization, and relaying rules and facts. I believe that math class can be approached with creativity! Spicing it up with some variety while keeping the rigor level high is the ultimate combo!
It is a rare blend for logical, analytical-minded math teachers to also incorporate high levels of creativity, so I hope to share guidance to help your own classroom benefit from that approach, without sacrificing rigor. I'd love to help you give your students a brain boost by adding CREATIVITY to math.
The goal: The elusive but perfect blend of fun & rigor
LINK: Creativity in Math
3) I believe…
that students retain material better when they are taught with a right-brain / left-brain integrated approach. When we can add a bit of color, doodling, or creativity into a logic-based class, we require the two hemispheres of the brain to work together. This has been proven to lead to an increase in learning, focus, relaxation, retention, and internalization of the lesson material! Students can really benefit from visual brain triggers. I love to let them interact with math content through coloring, sketching, or doodling in a productive and related way!
The goal: Combine visuals with linguistic input to boost student learning
LINK: Incorporate theright brain in math class
This is where the "doodle notes" concept came from. I loved the concept of visual sketch notes, but needed a more guided, structured version of visual notes instead. I needed something that kids could use easily. I debated just making my infographics black and white to be more color-friendly, but it just was not enough to activate the full brain benefits. I wanted it to be the best of both worlds. So the other features of doodle notes came together to become a whole new way for kids to interact with notes during lectures.
These have completely cured all the students' note-day dread, while also boosting their brains! Even the kids are amazed at how much more they are able to retain. It has been absolutely amazing to see the results of this method. I'm totally hooked on the doodles, and have been diving into the research, process, and benefits that these offer. As I continue perfecting my own creation of visual triggers and doodle-analogies to maximize the benefits of these pages, I also teach about how to make your own in the Doodle Note Club.
Here are some great places to dive into the teaching strategies that I believe in and have seen great results from:
So thank you for following along and trusting the benefits of blending rigor and creativity in math class!
I would love to hear from you! If you’ve seen a positive impact after coming across material here at Math Giraffe, or have questions, could you leave it in a comment below?
Thanks for reading!
Let me know how I can help you on your journey to teach math with a touch of CrEaTiViTy!! :)
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Navigating the Pre-Teen / Teen Homeschool Experience, Including the Dreaded Pre Algebra
Children in Middle School are at a pivotal age where they need to start preparing for high school, adapt to physical changes, manage emotional changes, all while balancing still being a kid! Teachers in middle schools tend to be used to this. They know how to adapt to all of these changes, from years and years of dealing with middle school students. As a parent crossing these bridges for the first time, however, you might need a little bit of guidance.
Here are some top tips to help you succeed in homeschooling your teen or pre-teen (general tips plus specific math strategies that will help you get through Pre-Algebra)!
Move Towards Greater Independence by Explicitly Teaching Organization, Math Study Skills, and more...
Whether your middle schooler is moving on to the local high school soon or remaining in homeschool, he or she is at an age where greater independence needs to start to occur; because, believe it or not, they will be full-fledged high schoolers before you know it!
They need to gradually be given more and more responsibilities, such as managing time after school for homework, and preparing for tests and quizzes on their own.
The key word is gradual. Don’t just randomly set them free to figure out how to study for tests on their own! That could be setting yourselves both up for failure (depending on your child). So, teach them helpful study skills first, and over time move to letting your child choose when and how to study.
Teach your child specifically HOW to study in math. It's different than studying in other subject areas. You may find this skill pack handy (aligned versions for other subject areas are available for smooth integration as well!)
Set goals alongside your child
An important way to help your child move towards greater independence is by teaching how to set goals and work towards achieving them.
I believe it’s important to start with a self-evaluation. Before your child can really decide what they need to work on as a goal, they need to begin with a reflection of where they are now and how they did in each area over the past semester.
Then, comes the goal setting and planning.
When they are ready to choose a goal to formally write up, it can be helpful to review the "SMART" goal criteria. Goals should be:
- Realistic / Relevant
I created a doodle note sheet to help guide them through this process. Click here to download for free!
It’d be fun for you to set some goals for your own life alongside your child, as well!
Just like any life skill, modeling it is the best way to teach it!
Incorporate Problem-Based Learning
April Smith, from Performing in Education, shares a ton of helpful information about Problem-based Learning in Homeschool.
Here’s what it looks like in homeschool: “Project-based learning is a learning method where kids gain and apply skills by working on a long project where they complete an in-depth inquiry into a specific topic or question. Like all methods, it’s not standalone. It can be added to any homeschool curriculum or activities you are presently using. PBL allows for more real world application and in-depth understanding of concepts in math, language arts, social studies, science, art, and business.”
Read her post to get more specifics and learn the elements of PBL (modified for homeschool) and about how to find projects!
Along these lines, it's a great time to go more in-depth with teaching personal finance. By 6th grade, students are ready for the basics of consumer math. This incorporates problem-based learning experiences, real-life scenarios, and valuable lessons.
This finance unit is a great resource for homeschool, because your child will build a financial "life" and make decisions. They choose whether to rent or buy a home, lease or purchase a car, and even explore retirement, insurance, and other tricky concepts.
Plan Field Trips Whenever You Can
Incorporating field trips as much as possible is a great way to help your child succeed in homeschool. Field trips allow your child to get real-life exposure, while keeping them engaged.
The Homeschool Buyers Co-op provides a map of the U.S. that allows you to click and your state, enter your zip code, and links all field trip ideas in your area! You can even search by category or view popular field trips.
Make Planning Math a Breeze
Planning a homeschool curriculum can be tedious and time-consuming! Math tends to be the toughest content area for parents as children reach 7th grade and start diving into Pre-Algebra.
Make math curriculum WAY more simple and effective by using this Pre-Algebra Doodle Note Book. It offers all of the brain benefits of visual notetaking all throughout their coursework If you’re new to Doodle Notes, check out doodlenotes.org!
This guided, interactive book includes 170 pages of doodle note lessons covering each Pre Algebra concept (fractions, decimals, integers, percents, geometry, equations, inequalities, the coordinate plane, slope, graphing, systems of linear equations, functions, and more). Each chapter progresses through the lesson topics with guided notes, visual references, and graphic review sheets that follow the brain-based doodle note method.
The best thing about this book is that it covers all the key topics from 6th grade all the way up until your child is ready to begin Algebra 1! So you can use it for a few years. It’s kid-tested, and they LOVE this creative method!
And of Course… Don’t forget they’re still kids!
Don’t forget that they are still kids and need time to have fun! Make sure you are still fitting socializing, extra-curriculars they’re interested in, and time to be active into their schedule! (But this part, you already knew!)
I hope these tips help you make homeschooling a success!
What homeschooling tips do you have? Other readers would love to hear your tried and true strategies from in the trenches!
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