I saw this tweet this morning and it almost consumed my thinking during my 45 minute commute to school:
If you don’t know Andrew Stadel, he is the mind behind Estimation 180.
Andrew, Dan Meyer, and a number of other authors are also the brains that created this awesome list of 3-Act Math Tasks. I’ve been watching these guys (@mathletepearce is another good one) for a while and they really make you consider what your math practice looks like and how effective you are at designing memorable opportunities for students to develop conceptual knowledge of math over procedural knowledge. They are THE evangelists of opportunities for deeper thinking in math class. Just look up Dan Meyer on Youtube and his talks will likely blow your mind. Dan speaks at NCTM conference every year. He now works as a fellow for Desmos, and what he’ll do with an already amazing product at Desmos will be unbelievable I’m sure.
I also found this video Here’s Why Math Is Taught Differently Now and it just seemed to fit the theme this morning. The video is 8 minutes long but I really encourage you to view it when you have time. The skill he dives into is two-digit multiplication and I know none of us really teach that specific skill, but the video is more than that.
I don’t write this post to condemn or judge anyone’s practice, in fact, like most of my blog, I’m judging my own. The bulk of my own class, dare I say, all of my class is spent on memorizing algorithms and procedures long enough to pass a test, then forget it. As is stated in the video, that works for some people (perhaps that’s why we chose to teach math, it worked for us) but for most people, it’s proven to be a miserable way of developing a joy for math and gaining a deep and lasting understanding of math.
Honestly, I thought of the conversation yesterday in dept meeting about quadratics. I obviously have no clue how quadratics was taught last year and I’m certainly not making any judgments on that, but why did the students forget it all over the summer? What prevented them from recognizing a quadratic this week on the POD? I’ve taught 8th grade math for 5 years and it hasn’t went unnoticed that my own students forgot way more math that I taught vs what they actually remembered. Teaching mostly freshman this year, it’s pretty clear that these students aren’t any different than the ones I used to teach in Parkersburg.
Consider this post from Dan Meyer about Photomath. If you haven’t heard of Photomath, it’s a mobile app that allows anyone to use their device to scan a variety of math problems, and it spits out the solution along with a series of steps to solve the problem.
Dan’s post epitomizes the changes that really need to occur in more math classrooms.
I just needed to get some things off my chest and this was the best way I could that. I wish there was more time to talk about these things and there’s no people I’d rather talk to then the people I work with. I’ve been trying to change my practice by myself and it’s hard. I’m fairly connected and it’s still difficult to learn, integrate, and develop a more conceptual understanding in my students. Not to mention all the other barriers that math teachers face: the products of an educational system that doesn’t require mastery of standards in order to pass. However, I know this to be true: