2/12/2019 3 Comments
Creativity, Sacrifices, Rigor, and more: Dispelling Common Myths in Math Education
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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