Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reflecting on Jo Boaler's How to Learn Math for Teachers and Adults - @kathyhenderson

After reading What's Math Got to Do With It?, I was inspired to take @joboaler's online class.  With an audience of teachers and parents, the class was one of my professional development choices for the summer.  Consisting of 8 lessons, it took me at least 8-10 hours to finish the course.

To be completely honest, much of the material covered in the online course is also covered in the book.  What I really appreciated about the online course was seeing some of the ideas in action - teachers working with students on number talks, students working with dot cards and students' video reflections on some of the activities.  These videos helped me to imagine how some of the lessons might help my students and what they might look like in a classroom.

This class has inspired me to incorporate more lessons on mindset in my classroom.  All of the middle school students at my school took Jo Boaler's student course this summer.  I am hoping to create a survey for my students that asks them about their mindset before the course and whether it may have changed due to the course.  I also hope to ask the students about how they think we can incorporate growth mindset into our classes.

After watching the lesson on Algebra, I have decided not to directly jump into the curriculum the first week of school.  I am going to start with the survey I mentioned above and then begin Dan Meyer's/ Fawn Nguyen's/ Andrew Stadel's/ Sarah Hagan's Cup-Stacking lesson.  I will not bring up the idea of a variable and will allow the students to look for patterns, collaborate and then find a solution to the problem.  As Jo mentions, we need to allow students to generalize before variables are introduced so that they understand the meaning of a variable.  After cup-stacking, I am hoping to work on some of Fawn's visual patterns and get into problems that are not linear, such as this one from From there, I may go into Elizabeth Stratmore's Barfing Monsters lesson and then Desmos' Central Park.  I am hoping that, by the end of this week or so, my students will have had the opportunity to generalize and think about patterns and variables without getting stuck in the textbook problems (which can be so boring!)  I also am hoping to incorporate some of Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math into my 7th grade class and the 5th grade class that I work with once a week.

There was one lesson that really struck a cord with me, how leveling or tracking can be pigeon-holing (if that's a verb?) our students at a young age.  We currently level our students and, while I think we do a great job looking at various data points, I question if this is the right thing to do.  I know that traditionally, independent schools level and that the high schools that we feed into take into account whether a student has taken honors courses in the 7th and 8th grades, but I question if putting a student into a certain level at this point of developmental maturity, is the best thing for them.  It's something I struggle with and know that I do not have an answer to it.  I just wish that the high schools and society as a whole would not put such an emphasis on honors mathematics at such a young age.  I would love to meet with some of the high school math department chairs and ask them what they think.

This course was great.  While a bit redundant after reading the book, the course did inspire me to change some things in my classroom including making more mindset poster for our classrooms (I will blog about this soon - once our classrooms are clean enough to photograph!)  I would recommend the course for teachers of all levels.

 - @kathyhenderson