On a more positive note…..

In an effort to show that I am not just a burned out old hulk of a teacher, refusing to comply with all those wonderful new regulations, I offer two quick peeks into my classroom.

This is why I teach!

I have noticed for the past few years that there is always a subset of children who enter fifth grade with the firmly entrenched belief that they “stink at math”.  They hate it, and they don’t understand it, and when they even rest one fingertip on a math book, their minds become complete blanks.  (H’mmmm, I wonder to myself: could the countless repetitive worksheets and tests have anything to do with this phenomenon?).

I see it every year, and it bothers me every year.  So I reach right out and grab that dilemma by the horns, to torture a nice metaphor.

I tell the kids that I used to be one of “those kids”. I describe the complete blank white space that I used to see when I tried to figure out a math problem.  I tell them the funny (sure, now its funny!) story of my poor Dad trying to help me with decimals, and me sobbing at the kitchen table, and stating with perfect assurance, “I will NEVER, EVER need to understand decimals at any point in my life EVER!!!” This gets a good giggle, because I am teaching them decimals at the time.   I tell them that they don’t have to love math, but they have to be able to use it. Otherwise, how will they be able to figure out the price of those great shoes that are 30% off?  How will they know if they have enough money for the fries with that sandwich?

I make the lessons as funny as possible.  One day I will write about Ruti, our pet rutabaga. He helps us understand place value.

I tell them at a more serious moment about how I thought for a while of becoming a nurse or a doctor.  I describe how I felt when the High School Counselor told me that I didn’t have “the right math background” to go into the sciences.  The kids come to understand that by turning off my math thinking at the tender age of ten or twelve, I changed the course of my whole life.   Mostly, they get it and they respond.

So yesterday we were talking about a complex math problem and we had to explain what it meant to “borrow” or “carry” (we call that “regrouping” now, you know.) One of my “I stink at math” girls was raising her hand. I gave her a big grin as I called on her.  A few minutes, and a few problems later, she was waving her hand frantically, wanting to be called on again!  And then, in a grand finale, I asked “For one million rutabaga points, what will I be doing if I carry across zeroes?” My reluctant mathematician bounced out of her seat and began jumping up and down with her hand in the air.  Priceless!!!

And then there was this gem, from one of my struggling learners.

We were going over the homework, and I was giving very explicit directions about what materials needed to go home, and what needed to be brought back.  Fifth graders are notorious for bringing home their reading journals and leaving them under the bed!

“So!”, I said firmly, “What absolutely HAS to come back tomorrow, or the whole day will be ruined?”

“You.”, said little Jenny, with an impish twinkle.

See why I’m heading out the door this foggy Friday morning?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Awesome. I wish I had had a math teacher like you. Great timing. I am posting today about my hatred for math! And how it turns out I kind of did need it. Ugh. 😉


  2. Awwwwww…..


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