Monday, February 1, 2010

Math, a girl's best friend.

I am taking a little break from our travel blogging (that will resume later today), to talk about teaching. I read a lot of teacher blogs, have a geeky master's degree all about learning, and I simply just have a passion for it. ...and I can't wait to get back into the classroom!

As we sat around this evening reading various articles on the Internet, we came across this one:

Girls' math fears may start with their {female} teachers

It came from and I appreciate the reporting. As a teacher, I find it incredibly important to maintain a positive attitude when teaching. Students can sense your dislike for being there, for teaching a certain subject, or even your dislike for them personally. It's a job I chose because I love to learn and I love to share my learning (and the joy I have in it) with children. I chose elementary school because I like teaching all subjects rather than just one. With that, I must teach... MATH. And, I love it.

Math wasn't my favorite subject in school, but I learned to love it through college and into teaching once I actually had professors teach me that it wasn't scary... that it wasn't something you are just allowed to suck at. I love teaching my students that math is not scary and that it is not something they should be afraid to give their best effort to achieve.

I didn't have those teachers in school. I wish I had. My teachers did admit their difficulty and dislike with math as a subject, sharing (how very kind) this dislike for the subject and inadvertently molding my view of whether I was "good enough" at math-- whether I could achieve great things or whether I would feel like a failure by trying.

Luckily, I chose to walk the opposite route in my teaching of math. I want my students, primarily girls, to have a positive attitude about their understanding at all levels. Whether they are GATE students or not, it is simply the teacher's job to speak positively about all subjects.

For the last few years, I taught the "smart" kids. I hate that we called them that; as if the other kids were the opposite. I had to deal with explaining that as we level, we aren't creating "dumb and smart classes"-- but kids are all too smart. I taught the kids who were privileged in their conceptual understanding having already been a base in their minds. Lucky them. I was also on the CUPS committee (conceptual understanding & problem solving) for the district I taught in. This was training I attended quarterly to learn unique ways to share concepts of math with students rather than teaching by lecture and memorization. In this training, I met other teachers, sometimes at the high school level. These high school math teachers expressed their frustration with elementary school teachers (most of which are female). Elementary teachers are the foundation these students have with regards to their feelings towards math. It actually becomes a "bad" word to some students after failing and being defeated all through primary and middle school. Some of these high school teachers begin their year asking their students to write a "math biography"-- outlining their life in relation to math. The accounts are astounding. The majority of biographies written by teenage girls all stem from their wonderful (yes, I am being smug) elementary teachers who willingly let these children believe that they weren't good at math, so that is acceptable.

Well, it's not. It's time we start teaching children with passion and without excuses. We aren't ever supposed to tell them what they should or shouldn't like; they can figure that out for themselves.

(but really, just Brandy)


Rachel Cotterill said... [Reply to comment]

As a number-loving girl, I couldn't agree more.