Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Fear of Math

After teaching English Language Arts (ELA) exclusively for the past five years, this past academic school year required me to becoming a Generalist again. This change in position required me to teach Math. My initial reaction to this news was one of horror. I will admit I was absolutely terrified.

Why? Like many Americans, I have not had a good experience with Math. I learned the rules and procedures needed to get by and pass my math classes. I remember sitting in one of my Math classes in fifth grade and the tears were dripping on my worksheet paper. I was so frustrated but I didn't know how to ask for help from the teacher. I wasn't able to articulate what exactly I needed help with. So I just sat there and struggled. When it was time to correct our papers, my paper was filled with red checks. I had gotten all of them wrong. Despite these experiences with Math, I somehow managed to get through high school and college.

It wasn't until teaching Second and Third grade Math that some of the concepts clicked in my head. For example, multiplication is repeated addition! Don't laugh! I know I should have known that concept but I didn't. Why? I learned multiplication in third grade by memorizing the multiplication tables from 0-12. When I taught my third grade students multiplication and division concepts, we explored arrays, skip counting, and using the number line. MY light bulb went off in my head. I thought to myself "Why didn't this type of learning occur when I was in school?" It would have saved me a lot of tears and frustration during my elementary, middle, and high school years.

When I became an ELA specialist, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were not implemented yet and teachers in my state were using state created standards. Coupled with my fear of math and learning the Math CCSS, I was not confident in my math teaching abilities in this academic year. I followed the state Math curriculum program, Stepping Stones, but I will admit I initially struggled to make sense of the new curriculum and to adjust to the state standards. I taught my students the required math grade level standards throughout the year. I adjusted my teaching pace according to their learning. However, I knew I needed to make a change and it needed to happen quickly.

In response to this call for action within myself, I composed a Math Summer Reading List. This reading list is composed of two math books that I hope will help me bring Math to life to my third grade students this upcoming year. Now I know that there may be a whole lot of Math books out there to read, but I am going to start with these two as I need to focus on other educational areas this summer (ex. planning out my curriculum for the year, getting ready for opening of the new school year, reacquaint myself with the Stepping Stones Math curriculum, and planning the integration of ELA with Science and/or Social Studies) and don't have a lot of time to read Math books exclusively.

Here are the titles to my Math Reading List.

Out of these two titles, I am especially eager to read Number Talks. My Math Curriculum Coach recommended this book to me. I hope it can bring me closer to becoming a highly effective teacher. I have many English Language Learners at my elementary school (at least 50%) and many come from low-income families. Being able to verbally articulate Math concepts will help their progress and I am excited to read this book.


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