Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why I think, what I think

I probably shouldn't start my first blog post about being a math educator by sharing the fact that I never wanted to be a math teacher.  I am passionate about teaching!  Like many of you, I take my job seriously and pride myself on building a love of learning in my students.

I majored in Middle Level Education: Multiple Subjects, and the requirements for this degree were strenuous to say the least.  I ended up about one class short of a minor in English, History, Physical Education and Art.  The Math and Science requirements were a little easier to obtain. Science required one Biology class and a middle level content test.  Math required a middle level content test, because I had tested out of taking math for this major.  That's right, I have not taken a math class since I was in high school, and I am a math teacher!

"How could that be?" you ask.  My plan was to be an English/Social Studies teacher and hopefully teach a block class where I could engage the kids in large activities around our content. In fact, I thought my weak area after my undergrad was in English, so I enrolled in Grad School and earned an M.Ed with an emphasis in Literacy.  Teaching math was meant to be though, as my first job was teaching English, Social Studies, Math and Honors Math all with 7th graders.

My math students performed well under my instruction, I think because I am not a Math Guy. I did not use a lot of math jargon when introducing topics. We drew a lot of pictures about math because of my art background.  We wrote a lot of sentences about math because of my literacy background, and we debated the pro and cons of solving methods as I had wanted to do in Social Studies. Once the administration finds out you can teach math, that's where you stay.  I have been teaching math now for 15 years. I have written math curriculum and assessments for my district, led PD on Assessing for Learning, led PD on Productive Group Work in Math, presented at the Northwest Math Conference twice, and served on the Washington Education Transition Team for our current Governor.  All without taking a math class in college.

This fact is hard for some math teachers to know and take me seriously.  That is fine. You can choose to not engage in a conversation with me about teaching because you view yourself as mathematically superior. I'll be over here teaching, learning and improving my craft.

I think math education on the whole is broken. I think the traditional default teaching style in math is why it's broken. I want to learn more about math education and for that, I need the help of expert teachers like you!  I welcome any and all feedback.

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