Oh Math…

Math and I have an interesting relationship. It’s more of a love-hate relationship most days. It started out when I was a kid. As a young elementary school student I was good at following the rules, repeating the actions, and practicing the questions that were given to me. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I could do it. I just saw math as a kind of necessary evil. Math and I were just acquaintances.

As I went through high school math and I became better friends. I enjoyed solving more “real world” problems, and seeing math come along with me to physics and chemistry classes. We weren’t besties or anything, but I generally was good friends with math…except for those times when I wanted to throw my math text across the room with those dang imaginary numbers and complex probability problems. At those times I hated math and we didn’t speak for days.

Photo Credit: matttrent via Compfight cc

In university I was lucky enough to have a phenomenal instructor who really helped me secure my relationship with math. It really made me see how interesting math can be and how many cool relationships there are within numbers and formulas, circles triangles, patterns and sequences. I was able to see why math and I had such a rough time in elementary school, and how I could now make things so much better for the students I would work with. I was actually really excited to be able to teach math to middle years students and show them how cool it was!

Well….so far math and I have not been getting along in my pre-internship lessons. My first go with math a few weeks ago was not too bad, but yesterday’s lesson….uh…not so much. I had really high hopes for the lesson and, I think that the actual lesson plan itself was fine, and actually really fun! It even included a story book and an art project! (You can check it out here.) But, there were a few problems in executing it…

  1. The students had not seemed to have done anything related to my topic since Mr. C taught it last week (oh, ya this was to be a review of what he taught). I’m not sure what they’ve been working on, but it felt like I was starting at square one again with them.
  2. As a result of having to spend so much time on actually reviewing the concept behind circles, circumference (which I’m not sure they actually know about) and area, there was no time left to do the actual “fun” part of the lesson.
  3. Students do not know how to use a compass to draw a circle. I guess I just assumed by grade 8 they would. Whoops.
  4. As the students worked through their problems I could see that they really didn’t get the concepts…which had now been taught to them twice….oy. After half an hour of working on something I thought would have taken 10-15 minutes only 1 student had finished….double oy. I realized that I probably should have stopped and perhaps done another example with them, but by that point I didn’t even know if it would be worth it.

By the end I just felt sort of defeated. I think that if it were a class that I worked with on a more regular basis, it would have been easy enough to just pick up the next day, or next period, but in my case, this was the last time I’ll see these students for months, so I have no time to correct what happened. While my co-op said that it was fine and that the overall lesson was great, I certainly doubted my teaching strategies. I just didn’t know what to do to make it better.

I think that if I were teaching this lesson in my class I would perhaps add in several other lessons. I would start with the story of Sir Cumference, and have students understand the pi ratio by exploring circles and cylinder shapes like Radius did in the story. From this we could easily discuss how to calculate the circumference and diameter of the circle, two crucial parts of the circle. Then we could go into radius and calculations for the area of the circle. After a day or two on this we could then look at doing the neat art project I had wanted to do with the students. Similarly with the grade 8s, they could have done with a review of parts of a circle before going to the surface area of a cylinder. They all could have done the same portions, and then as the grade sevens were working on some more practice with circles, the grade 8s could have gone the step further, now feeling confident with area of circles and circumference, the two crucial parts of the surface area calculations.

I’m happy that I was able to make these realizations after the lesson. While it is frustrating that I won’t be able to pick up this lesson again with the students, I’m grateful for the learning that I got from it.

Last day until the spring now! …although the weather outside might suggest that winter’s not even going to come!

One thought on “Oh Math…

  1. Amy Lawson says:

    Pre-internship and the early part of internship suffer from exactly what you’ve hit on… the stand-alone, hit-and-leave nature of the lessons. Beginning the teaching process gradually is important, but it lends itself to lessons that don’t reflect the ongoing and flowing nature of true teaching in the field. It’s why I stand by saying that pre-internship lessons are the most difficult ones you’ll ever have to plan and teach! Rest assured, however, that whatever negative takeaways you might pull from your lessons, I’d have little doubt that your students enjoyed themselves and took some exciting things away. You will love every moment of what comes your way in a year. 🙂

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