Sunday, February 15, 2015

Perseverance, Pride, and "Math Behaviors"!

If any of you follow me on my blog over at The Teacher Studio, you know that math is one of my passions.  I love to teach math.  Do math.  Learn about math.  I take it very personally when my students come in NOT liking math--and I take it as my mission to change their minds!

One thing that I think is SO important about math is that students need to be explicitly taught some of the "behaviors" needed to be successful mathematicians!  Whether this be a willingness to persevere and "give it a try", an ability to organize one's work, the careful "proofreading" of their math, or even knowing when and what tools/resources to use--math "behaviors" can really open the door to success for students who, previously, didn't think they could do it.

One thing that I know to be true is that students will rise to the occasion if the expectations are reasonable, clear, and modeled.  I love to have my students begin to recognize quality work, effort, creative solutions, and organization--so I put them in situations to see other students' work all the time.  We work collaboratively DAILY, and we often pause to share out things we notice.  You will often hear me ask questions like...

"What impressed you with your group's work today?"

"What were some things that you noticed that you didn't think of doing yourself--but might in the future?"

"What did some of your group members do to organize their work?"

"How focused was your group?  How could you tell?"

"Did anyone in your group get stuck?  How did you handle it?"

What I love about focusing on these math "behaviors" is that ALL students can be successful--even if their math skills aren't the strongest.  In fact, some of my students with the BEST math behaviors are NOT the best math students...but as the year has gone on, their skills have improved for a few reasons.

1.  Their focus and effort contributes to learning.
2.  They recognize that in my class, I value these "Real World" skills as much as correct or "fast" answers.
3.  The positive affirmations from their peers are motivating.
4.  Having their work recognized for quality builds confidence and active participation.

So...I thought I'd share some snapshots from a few recent problem solving experiences!  

I have a few students who, when faced with tough problems--or problems with unclear "jumping in" points.  My advice?  "Just try something."  Sometimes, just the act of putting SOME math on their page can get them rolling.  This willingness to dig in is a part of the "perseverance" Standard for Mathematical Practice!
This is one of my strongest math students...but one who came to me as a rather scattered and impulsive mathematician.  As he has watched other students in the room try different techniques, he has begun to mature as a mathematician.  He was hard at work making a "learning poster"--something I encourage students to do when they solved a problem in a really unique way in their notebook; I give them a 12x18 piece of paper and let them do a "final copy" that I display so others can see their masterpiece!  What did he have in store?  He wouldn't show me...

He was SO proud that he discovered a pattern with one of our "perseverance problems"--problems I always have hanging in an anchor chart for math workshop.  He was SO proud of his poster--and the other students ooh'ed and aaah'ed appropriately!

Sometimes students just struggle knowing what a problem is asking.  I encourage my students to use some of the same strategies we use in literacy--we highlight, we underline, we jot down notes in the margins...all techniques to try to get us to really get at the heart of the problem.

Every so often, I ask my students to look back over work they have done and select work that they are particularly proud of for some reason...they struggled but persevered to get the  answer, they organized it particularly well, they tried something new,--anything that helped them realize some of these "non-math" math skills!

So there you have it!  Put your students in positions where they are challenged--but help them recognize that getting the right answer is only part of being a mathematician!  Interested in trying one of these problems with YOUR class?  I have one available in a freebie if you would like...or a much larger set if you want to really dig in!  Thanks for stopping by--and have a wonderful week!

The freebie!
The full resource...problems, poster headers, suggestions for use, and more!
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