Thursday, September 29, 2011

"I now view math more as an art..."

At the beginning of the term of a course for future elementary school teachers, I ask my students to write a math autobiography.  Normally this is done in the first course in the sequence for future elementary teachers.  This time I have done it in the third course.  One of my colleagues, who taught the first two courses via guided inquiry is on leave this term.

As I read through the math autobiographies, I can see those who have had negative experiences noticing a change of heart.  The seeds of hope have been planted, and they see themselves liking math more than they used to.

Most of the negative attitudes about math appear to develop or at least surface somewhere between upper elementary school and HS Geometry.  This is a pattern in the biographies, so I won't try to explain it. I'll just report it.  Why this is the case is not the point of this post.  What I'd like highlight is one student's poignant statement:
I now view math more as an a art because of the diversity in how to get one answer.  Growing up I was only taught one way to solve a problem, so I did not even think about the other methods that may have been easier for me personally.  It is so important to teach children today that there is not always one correct answer and not one method to get to that answer.

Let us focus on what we can do for students in our classes, and let us be reminded that students have the capacity to change, if given the opportunity to do better.  There is a way to make it happen!