Just as I began questioning if my new way to teach math (no textbooks, problem-based learning) was working, a student gave me a Christmas card with the following written in it:
This made my day! Maybe my year! "Yes, I am SO happy you no longer HATE math!" I thought. To have a 7th grader write this to me, made me
This past summer, I got a chance to rewrite the math curriculum using only online resources, math videos that I created and current resources that I had. I decided that I could create a better curriculum than the current math book we were using. I was hopeful and fearful about what other teachers, parents and especially my students would think. I like to think that I use a blended practice of current math practices and problem based learning. This type of learning can be hard for students because they are used to the "kill and drill" method, not really having to think and maybe even failing a few times before they come to the correct answer. Students were frustrated and mad, would shut down at times but I kept pushing.......I knew that this type of learning was better for understanding and retention. I actually heard out of the mouths of some of my students......wait for it.............."This type of math was fun!" *GASP!* Yes, they really said it.
Robert Kaplinsky has great ideas about how to run a problem-based classroom and is a great resource to use. He uses the element of surprise as the hook and kids love to see if they can get the right answer. I was lucky enough to see him speak in person and I will tell you as, a math teacher, if you have the chance, you MUST go! He really gets you motivated.
I am not saying that every student loves it or feels the same way as the one above but this is the motivation I needed to keep pushing my students and myself to try something new. How can I ask my students to try something new if I am not willing? How can any of us? I need to be learning side by side with my students, showing them what lifelong learning looks like. I can't be afraid to try new things or fail or be worried what people might say. If these are the lessons I am trying to teach my students in middle school, I need to take and live my own advice. It's a tough pill to swallow sometimes but I have to hand it to a student to bring it to my attention.