Sunday, August 4, 2013

A New Math Identity

The identity property of addition is 0 while the identity property of multiplication is 1. There are many other ways of defining identity mathematically but a new line of research in math education is revealing a completely different math identity.  I am currently reading a very interesting book in which the authors describe ways in which students identify themselves with math. The book, The Impact of Identity in K - 8 Mathematics by Aguirre, Mayfield-Ingram and Martin, brings a long-needed focus to the way students, and teachers, see themselves in the context of mathematics.

The authors raise interesting questions about how students see themselves in the context of math in relation to how they see themselves in other activities. Frequently students will have very positive identities in all sorts of things related to sport, art, music, language and so on but when it comes to math their self esteem plummets. This is  particularly true of students with diverse needs such as those who have special needs, come from disadvantaged homes, or are English language learners.

Since we live in a time when fewer and fewer students are choosing to enroll in  math courses in high school or college or, indeed,  follow math-based careers we have to do something to change these negative identities to positive ones at an early age so that students find math interesting rather than boring and irrelevant.

In recent posts I have been sharing the way I think math needs to be made more user friendly by relating it to art, and real life while at the same time maintaining the same standards of academic rigor as those required in the fields of the English language arts. In other words, we need to find ways that captivate students interests so that they see math as interesting and relevant as well as stimulating and challenging. 

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