Mixed feelings about math…

Have you ever felt frustrated teaching math? In all honesty, sometimes teaching first graders how to fluently add or subtract, count money, or identify rules and apply them to numbers given in a “function machine” left me feeling tired and even a little bit cranky at the end of math. I wanted to meet the needs of all the learners in my class but didn’t always know how to organize my math time to make this possible. The book “Guided Math” by Laney Sammons has caused me to think about math in a whole new way (and I have to say that the “light bulb” has been going on in my head as a result). Drawing an analogy between guided reading (which I already know and am very familiar with) and math, Sammons has practical ideas to teach students to comprehend and effectively communicate mathematical strategies. Knowing that students can often learn a skill in math without fully understanding the process behind it, I’m now taking care to think aloud often, create anchor charts that cement student learning, and teach students to make connections between new learning and previous learning. (Boy was I surprised when I learned that students can make math-to-math and math-to-self connections!) I must say that I’ve spent more time planning and individualizing my lessons than ever, but the end result is a sense of fulfillment. I am energized when I hear students explain a complex mathematical concept to a peer and when they truly demonstrate that they understand something. The best part is seeing all of the students in my class work independently at meaningful activities, which in turn enables me to conference individually with students or meet with small groups of learners.


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