This year, following the lead of our Primary School Maths Coach, Kath, I am starting our work together as Grade 2 Mathematicians differently. I am starting with a more intentional focus on habits of mind, attitudes, and dispositions. In past years, I have built some of this work into the early days in our math classes, however, I think I often inadvertently countered these very messages by also jumping right into specific skills-based content lessons. This year, I am slowing down and focusing on depth and meaningfulness first. After all, one of the gifts for me from my growing career as a teacher is the understanding that there truly is time to do more. Taking time to be meaningful and thoughtful and intentional always pays off for everyone down the line. And, these days have spent doing some really great math!
The resources I have used for this work so far have come from YouCubed at Stanford University and Nrich from the University of Cambridge. Both are excellent sources for articles, videos, lessons, and problem-solving tasks.
One part of this early work in maths has been reflective. I am asking the students to check in and share their current attitudes and dispositions towards math. We have done this mostly with reflective prompts. For open-ended prompts like: “I enjoy maths most when…” or “When I get stuck in maths, I…” we used the Chalk Talk Visible Thinking Routine. It is the beginning of the year in Grade 2, so I also planned for them to be able to reflect by moving their bodies around to show their ideas. They responded to agree/disagree prompts like: “Math is difficult.” or “I learn maths by talking to a friend.” by making Human Graphs or Four Corners. We reflect on a few prompts each day.
Along with the reflective thinking, Kath and I began putting forth attitudes that are necessary and useful to be curious, determined, and thoughtful mathematicians. The putting forth has involved both explicitly naming and showing the students which attitudes are useful and immediately providing problem-solving tasks that allow them to dive in and try these attitudes out. For example, in their first math session we put forth the ideas from Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work that when faced with a challenge, you must believe in yourself. Also, the idea that only by taking on challenges, as opposed to choosing the “easy route”, does your brain grow.
Using some puzzling and collaborative maths problems found on the Nrich and YouCubed websites, we guided the students to then dive in, work through maths challenges and share how they felt and what they learned.
As I write this, we are only a couple days into Week 3 of the school year. The math vocabulary cards that are posted on our walls so far read: “convince” “challenge” “skeptic” “evidence”. I have already seen and noted math skills lessons that the students need. Rather than waiting and teaching these skills in isolation, I can plan for them soon and teach them in relation to the problems we worked through this past week. I have also noted some misconceptions that we can work to sort out together, and the students have posed numerous interesting questions about shape and number. The language, the actions, the tools, and the learning that has taken place in these early weeks have begun to lay a solid foundation for what it means to be a mathematician in the wide open world.
If you are interested, here are a couple other Math Resources I am really interested in right now:
Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching – Dan Finkel at TEDxSeattle
Math 4 Love -Transforming how math is taught and learned
How do you incorporate work with learning attitudes and mindsets into your classroom? I’d love to hear.