Thursday, August 25, 2011

Math Attack!

Monday was the first day of classes at the college where I teach.  (I teach mathphobics who aren’t always thrilled to be in my math class.)  As the students were entering and finding seats, I was greeted with, “Math is my enemy!”  I guess this particular student was waiting for an impending Math Attack.  But then I began thinking, “Should this student wait to be attacked or learn how to approach and conquer the enemy?”   Since winning any battle requires forethought and planning, here is a three step battle plan for mathphobics.
 1)  Determine why math is your enemy.  Did you have a bad experience?  Were you ever made to feel stupid, foolish, or brainless?  Did your parents say they didn’t like math, and it was a family heredity issue?   (One of the curious characteristics about our society is that it is now socially acceptable to take pride in hating mathematics.  It’s like wearing a badge of honor or is that dishonor.  Who would ever admit to not being able to read or write?)  Math is an essential subject and without math, not much is possible...not even telling time!

2)   Be optimistic.  Suffering from pessimism when thinking of or doing math problems makes it impossible to enjoy math. Come to class ready to learn.  At the end of class, write down one thing you learned or thought was fun.  I realize math teachers are a big part of how a student views math. In fact, one of the most important factors in a student’s attitude toward mathematics is the teacher and the classroom environment. Just using lecture, discussion, and seat work does not create much interest in mathematics. You’ve been in that class.  Go over the homework; do samples of the new homework; start the new homework.  Hands-on activities, songs, visuals, graphic organizers, and connecting math to real life engage students, create forums for discussion, and make math meaningful and useful.

3)   Prove Yourself.  Take baby steps, but be consistent.  Faithfully do the homework and have someone check it.  Don’t miss one math class!  You can’t learn if you aren’t there.  Join in the discussions.  Think about and write down your questions and share them with your teacher or with the class. Study for an upcoming test by reviewing 15 minutes each night a week before the test.  Get help through tutoring, asking your instructor, or becoming a part of a study group.  Keep in mind, no one is destined to defeat!

So don’t just sit there and wait for the dreaded Math Attack.  This year, meet it head on with a three step battle plan in hand!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Few Good Rules

Now that most of us are getting geared up for a new school year, it's time to think about what classroom rules need to be established.  Maybe the ones you had last year just didn’t work, and you are looking for a change.  I could recommend many "Do this or this will happen" or "Please don't do this as it will break my heart" statements, but lists can become very long and mind-numbing.  Maybe that is why God only gave Ten Commandments.  Fewer rules meant less had to be memorized.  So, maybe we need to ask ourselves: “How many classroom rules are really needed?”  

I'd suggest making a few general rules that are clear and understandable since being too specific often leads to complicated, wordy rules that might cover every possible situation. Most of the time, I post four simple classroom rules (only two words each) in my room which encompass my main areas of concern.  I find them to be more than sufficient to govern general behaviors, and because alliteration is used, the rules are easy for all of my students to remember. 
  1. Be Prompt – In other words, be on time to school/class/group.
  2. Be Prepared – Bring the items you need to class or to a group.  Study for upcoming tests.  Have your homework completed and ready to turn in. 
  3. Be Polite – This rule focuses on how we treat each other.  Show respect for your teacher(s) and your fellow students in the classroom, in the school, and on the playground.
  4. Be Persistent - The final rule spotlights the need to stay on task and complete an assignment even though it might be difficult.
If you are interested in using these four rules in your classroom, check them out on TeachersPayTeachers.  Just click on the purple letters below.  Each two word rule is written as a chart, and all are ready to download and laminate to hang in your classroom.