Friday, January 11, 2013

Y U no like math?

Last semester, I was fortunate to teach a class that brought together preservice and inservice math teachers in a combined undergraduate/graduate course. The graduate students mentored the undergrads in the areas of assessment, evaluation, and planning. In return, I gave the inservice teachers the freedom to use design thinking to explore any issue they were experiencing in their teaching. This post presents a portion of one of their projects.
Julia Moore is an adjunct at Grand Rapids Community College, and she gave me permission to share her work with you. One of the things she found in the research she read was that students' self-perception related to mathematics impacted their engagement in the subject. She wondered if she might influence these individual perceptions by addressing the intellectual struggle and emotional  feelings typically associated with doing mathematics. In order to tackle these perceptions, she asked students to use Internet memes to describe their relationship to math. They shared the memes in class: 

This is my favorite:
According to Julia, the most valuable part of this exercise was the discussion it started. She writes: 
The conversation had its foundation in humor, so the classroom environment was relaxed and free-flowing. ... They shared stories of:
  • Struggles with mathematics or previous teachers
  • Successful experiences with mathematics or previous teachers
  • Frustration at learning something they may NEVER use again
  • Being able to excel in their other classes, but haven't been able to transfer those skills into mathematical thinking
I wish I had TAPED IT!!!!
The discussion presented Julia with the opportunity to explain that everyone struggles in math; it's one's willingness to engage in the struggle that increases one's likelihood of success. She also highlighted where people encounter math in the world. Because of the safe space the original activity created, the students' were more open to this discussion and more engaged in later mathematical discussions.

She plans to add a second piece to this activity in the future. Students will create a new meme at the end of the semester that indicates some mathematical understanding they learned during the course. This is the example Julia shared:

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