Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Math Major Makes the Difference

This semester I have had the unusual but distinct pleasure of supervising two math majors in their elementary school student teaching placements. Using the Bridges in Mathematics program with their first/second multi-grade classrooms they have had a profound impact not only on their students' math skills but also on the way the students feel about math. They have brought math alive for their students through their deep and comprehensive knowledge of mathematics as they have implemented lessons on a variety of math topics. They have been able to go beyond "transmitting" knowledge about math to helping children construct meaning and make sense of the concepts and ideas presented in the program. This making sense is difficult to achieve if you don't have a deep understanding of what you are teaching.

But their achievements go beyond helping children make sense. Their self confidence with math has rubbed off on the students, especially the girls they have been working with. The student teachers are comfortable with math, they are relaxed and smile a lot, they show no anxiety, and they use relevant examples to illustrate concepts that associate math with real life and pleasant things. I read about this phenomenon, or at least the inverse, in an interesting piece of research at the University of Chicago several years ago. Young children can pick up on the most subtle clues as to how a teacher feels about what she is teaching. Here's another more recent study reported in the Journal of Curriculum and Instruction that goes further to show the relationship between teacher anxiety and student performance in mathematics in the elementary school.

It's interesting to note that one of my two math major student teachers has already secured a teaching position while the other has an interview.  

No comments:

Post a Comment