On Becoming a Math Person…

I may be a middle school math teacher now, but my math story began a long time ago.  It didn’t begin as a love story, but it could have.  It should have.  I am one of the lucky ones.  My experience with math keeps getting sweeter.  While it admittedly took a few decades longer than ideal to ripen, I stuck around long enough to reap the rewards.  There are others out there that did not make it:  parents, teachers of other subjects, friends.  We all know them.  They say things like, ”I’m no good with numbers”, or “I’m not a math person”.  Others nod knowingly like “math people” actually exist and sympathize that they too weren’t lucky enough to get the math gene or whatever the latest urban myth is about being capable of curiosity, reasoning and relationships.  So what can I do to change perceptions?  Perhaps by sharing my story and trying to connect with other elusive “math people” we can figure this out together.

 I have always been good at math.  My teachers and friends told me this was because my mom was a math teacher.  I believed them.  It didn’t matter that my math work at home was probably the standard forced homework that everyone did at that point in their lives.  I was a math person – it was settled.  Grade 3, Mrs Edwards class:  I remember taking my turn, standing in front of the class, reciting my multiplication tables and getting a gold star on the classroom chart.  I did so well in my classwork I got rewarded by being allowed to tidy up the coatroom.  Message received:  If you can memorize some facts, follow some steps and get through this drudgery you can have some actual fun like straightening the shoes!

Junior high was more of the same.  I knew I could do the work.  But it was just that – work.  In high school I took the advanced classes.  I analyzed graphs, knew my trig identities, applied the right procedures and found the correct solutions.  I checked the necessary math courses off my list so I could move on to the fun stuff.

Fast forward a few more years than I care to count and I am a math coach and teacher.  I am still a math person.  Or maybe finally a math person.  Not because of my mom, my multiplication facts or my memorizing skills.  I am happy and proud to say that I have found the joy, satisfaction, and beauty in math.  I now know there is so much more to mathematics than what I had learned as a young student.  What happened between then and now?  Well lots!  I have had some experiences that have fundamentally changed what I believe math education could and should be.  I guess you could say I have actually become the math person everyone believed me to be from the start.  In the posts that follow I’ll share some of those experiences.

I plan to use this venue to put some ideas out there, share some lessons, and reflect on their success.  The best collaborations that I have been a part of have been motivated educators figuring things out together.  Want to work on something?  Reach out!  I hope you will stick with me – give me some feedback.  Share your ideas and experiences too.  Let me know what I should still consider in the lessons that I share, or what improvements or adjustments should be made.  I am committed to getting better.  Committed to learning.  What you will find here are lessons that offer students choices and challenge learners to prove, discuss, and persist.  And of course, perhaps most importantly, my creations will promote joyful mathematics through play.

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