Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results

Judy Willis, M.D.

1.    Reversing Math Negativity with an Attitude Makeover
Myths & Misconceptions:
•    You have to be very intelligent to be good a math.
•    It is acceptable to be bad at math because most people are.
•    Math isn’t really used much outside of special occupations.
•    “My parents were never good at math, so they don’t expect me to be any different.”
Consequences of math negativity:
•    stress, low motivation
•    decreased levels of participation
•    boredom
•    low tolerance for challenged
•     failure to keep pace with classes necessary for subsequent professional success
Students are routinely asked to memorize procedures and are then told-without explanation or conceptual connections-that what was correct last year is no longer acceptable.
Students truly “get” math when they see it applied in real-life ways they care about-in other words, when they see math as a tool they need and want.
Building Math Positivity
First step to math success is a positive attitude toward the subject matter, not just the grades associated with it.
Suggest ways for parents to be involved in a positive way by integrating real-world math into their child’s hobbies and interests.  (for example, figuring time and money.
Retest to De-stress
Demonstrate the value of math.
Start the year showing you care.
•    Math autobiography
•    Have students assess you…offer an opportunity to decide on categories in which they will assess you and then let them give you report card grades.

2.    Understanding and Planning Achievable Challenge
Students my feel frustrated or bored depending on your level of achievable challenge (tasks that require student to exert metal effort, performing a task that is just difficult enough to hold their interest but not so difficult that they give up in frustration)
Use strategies to provide experiences and develop student goals based on individualized realistic challenges.
Celebrate achieved challenges
•    Have students teach a new skill to someone else.
•    Have students keep a list of achievements in their math journals or write them on a wall chart.
•    Take a photo of the final achievement.
•    Have students compose a note to their parents
•    “Celebrate and Cement”-give opportunities for students to transfer new skills to new situations.
•    Incorporate a record of progress as part of your students’ ongoing assessment.
Learning Strengths:  Map Readers and Explorers (most students can be differentiated into these 2 categories)
•    Map Readers(linquistic/logical)-like to work independently, like specific instructions or procedures to follow, work deliberately, show all steps in homework (more on p 24)
•    Explorers(special/bodily/kinestic)-skip detailed instructions, figure using trial & error, use estimation & visualization, need to be reminded to show their work (more on p 25)

Using Students’ Learning Strengths
•    Use multisensory input (hands-on experiences with manipulatives, moving students around the room to demonstrate concepts i.e. constructing living equations or having students represent new info though examples created by small groups and shared with class
•    Use Flexible  Grouping (designed so that students can move easily between them)
•    Scaffold for Achievable Challenge-provide a sequence of prompts or intermediate support in content, materials or teacher support.
•    Support ELLs and Student with Reading Difficulties (vocabulary support, web sites)
•    Avoid Student Boredom-avoid “fight/flight/freeze”  behaviors
When students finish have more challenging or higher level work ready
Have students write down the amount of time spent on homework
•    Challenge Gifted Math Students (Math Olympiads)

3.     Examples of Differentiated Planning for Achievable Challenge
“Knowing a great deal is not he same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used.”   Carl Sagan

•    Working with shapes
•    Estimating volume
•    Exploring number lines
•    Understanding Division

4.    Reducing Mistake Anxiety
See list “Making Common Errors
Student errors tend to be consistent

Creating the Right Environment for Younger Students
    Younger students are more comfortable making mistakes.
Reducing Negative Attitudes Toward Mistakes (in front of classmates)
•    Enforce Wait Time-for example, tell students that to b considered, they cannot call out an answer or raise their hands until you say a particular number.
•    Call on Multiple Students-without saying if their answers are correct, then call for a vote from the class
•    Intervene Immediately-thank for an incorrect response, restate the question, answer is “close”, come back to student later
•    Use Estimation and Prediction to Increase Participation-ask “mistake” proof questions, focus on concept & process
•    Create an Estimating Center
•    Estimate Weight with Familiar Objects
•    Estimate Circumference
•    Lower Risk with Small-Group Practice
•    Find Multiple Approaches
•    Use Problems with Multiple Correct Answers
•    Learn from Mistakes
5.    Change Your Intelligence?  Yes You Can!
•    Check out the Brain Owners Manual in Appendix B
6.     Motivating All of Your Students
•    Active engagement
•    RAS (reticular activating system)-the brain’s most primitive filter
•    Engage students with “RAS” Grabbers (novelty, change, surprise)
•    Reinforce Achievable Challenge with “Friendly Numbers”
•    Build Curiosity and positive anticipation (posters-a form of teasing advertisement, or use of discrepant events)
•    Avoid negative reactions to the unexpected
•    Make connections relevant to your students
•    Use openings that sustain curiosity (see “big openings” on p 106)
•    Create unit titles (have students help with this)
•    Use syn-naps (brain-breaks) to maintain motivation (Prime Number Buzz, telephone using math vocab & definitions, commercials to advertise a math “product”, Pick a Card (use 2 matching decks-one equal to # of students…pass out card from one deck…use other deck to draw a card…student with matching card answers question (p 109), code breaking
•    Add movement to syn-naps (brain ball shake-up, Have I got something to tell you, And in this corner, We’ve got something in common, magic word of the day)

7.    Bringing the Real World to the Math Classroom
•    Gather and use Background Knowledge About Students
•    Math experience autobiographies
•    Make personal Connections with Homework or Class Work
•    Connect to Mathematicians
•    Find teachable moments in math
•    Relate negative integers to real life
•    Use math to Make a home
•    Bring in Real World experiences
•    Create a Room Chart for Student Contributions
•    Use students’ likes and dislikes
•    Use mail order catalogs
•    Work it out
•    Use big events and holidays
•    Use computer simulations (excellent resources in Appendix A)
•    Use stock market math
•    Play games with patterning
•    Play Scaffolding Games for Differentiated Levels
8.    Creating Student Goals
•    Gain student interest from the beginning
•    Develop personalized goals-help students make connections between unit goals and their personal goals.
•    Use the motivating power of choice