Thursday, June 24, 2010

It could have been so different

Strictly speaking, this posting is not so much about resources and connecting them to teaching but rather about a curriculum subject that throws me and a good many people into bouts of the heebie-jeebies – math.

A recent case of the aforementioned heebie-jeebies was just this past year when I was asked to develop a workshop around resources for teaching science and math.  Science, no problem. But math – OMG!!  Even the idea of just talking about math resources was enough to cause me to break out, toss and turn at night and develop a nervous tick over my left eyebrow.

So, whenever I run into a situation where I feel totally out of my comfort zone, I break it down and start to read.  And, man, did I read.  I had six weeks to prep and every moment I could, I read about math.  Egad! But I did learn an awful lot mostly about how my own math experiences in school were all too common and could have been very different.  All those seemingly random rules could have been placed in contexts that would have helped develop my understanding and shown me connections with the real world.

(If you’d like to know what I read, here’s a link to a short bibliography of some of the most helpful resources:Recommended Reading for Teaching Elementary Math and Science.
Read The Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart (510.71 LOM 2009)  for a short, interesting discourse on math in schools today and practical strategies on how to make it different.)

Now, to my real intent with this posting - I would direct your attention to the following TED talk by Dan Meyer, a high school math teacher who also provides some insights into teaching math, but just as importantly about developing thinking and problem solving skills with students.

As to my enlightenment, well let’s just say I really do wish the way I learned math had been different but I'm not looking to do it all over again, either.  Oh, and the tick over my left eyebrow – hardly ever shows when the subject of math comes up now.  Baby steps…


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