April 12, 2024

The fight for Mathematical Justice

Over 97% of my 11th and 12th graders have been failed by our “Survival of the Fittest” math education system. They had been convinced that they couldn’t do math, that they didn’t have math brains or weren’t fast enough doing speed tests. They were subjected to a system designed to deny them the power a high quality math education would give them. That’s why I spend a vast amount of time and energy building a system that helps them discover that they can do high powered math.

At this point my program has settled into:

Mindset Monday: We start off the week with a growth mindset video from Jo Boaler, Sesame Street, Class Dojo or any number of videos on youtube. We have a ton of growth mindset posters around the room and together we created a “Change your Words, Change your Mindset” wall. I work really hard to use appropriate feedback in class every day, encouraging hard work, celebrating mistakes and always talking about making progress.

Team Building Tuesday: We start the class with a five minute team building challenge. I have borrowed and created a bunch of challenges that I have built into slides with 5 minute timers. After a half dozen or so challenges I started to figure out what seems to get them the most excited and engaged. When I needed new challenges I created the following parameters by which to build them to:

  1. Must be done in 5 minutes
  2. Must need everyone of the team members to be working at the same time
  3. Needs to be easy to judge a winner
  4. Must allow for creative and multiple solutions
  5. Must have a super fast set up and tear down
  6. Must use materials on hand/reusable/cheap
  7. Must be fun and accessible for everyone

Wednesdays are short days so we are already pressed for time and hence can’t do any math status building.  That being said if it works in my pacing we’ll do a review I call a station race. I put a different problem up on each of my 8 stations around the room then I’ll start the 2 or 5 minute timed music slides that I have built and the teams will rotate to the next station/problem every time the music changes.

Thinking Thursdays: We start the class with a “What doesn’t belong” picture and students are randomly picked to describe why each of the squares “doesn’t belong”. I love this activity because every student can succeed at this. Even if they get stuck, it happens to the best of us, and I can’t help them with clarifying questions quickly, I’ll tell them to discuss it with their team and get back to them later. Everyone succeeds.

Formative Fridays: One week it’s a team test and the next an individual one. I build a series of slides that have the rubrics with possible solutions and relative point values. Students correct their own tests. This includes my latest “Three Read problem solving system” which has really been amazing in moving knowledge forward.

As with everything in my classroom, this system is an ever evolving work in progress. I am constantly evaluating every aspect with the single overarching question, “Is this driving mathematical knowledge forward?” It is always my hope that in my own small way I am helping to overcome the decade of mathematical injustice that my students have been subjected to.

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