I started my two senior math classes with a promise to the students. I told them my goal was that everyone will leave my class (and high school) having found some part of math that they enjoy/find interesting/want to study more. Possible? I’m not sure, but I want to make it come true.
Here’s how this came about:
First of all, this was in my two sections of what we call College Algebra. I teach one section of Honors PreCalc to our seniors who are stronger at math (and apply to get in), as well as two sections of College Algebra for the rest of the seniors (a pretty heterogeneous group).
Secondly, I had been thinking a lot about how much I want senior math to be the class where students really see the “real world application” of math that we always talk about. I want to find ways to show them how math is really used, in business, finance, technology, etc…something more alive and exciting than “you can use sine and cosine to find the height of a building if you measure the length of its shadow and the angle of elevation.” Booooring.
Lastly, and most importantly, on the first day of class for each section, I did a quick icebreaker. Students had to stand, say their name, and tell us one thing about them we can’t know just by looking at them. Several students in each section said some version of “I hate math” as their fact. Just stop and think about it: these students had to tell me one fact that was not immediately obvious by looking at them, them could brag about aaaaaanything in their lives that they want, and the one thing they most wanted to communicate to me is their discomfort or frustration or fear etc etc etc of/for math. I think this is not to be taken lightly. I am in no way upset with students for saying this. In fact, I’m so glad that they felt they could be this honest with me on the first day…I just took it as further proof to how important my job is this year.
So, with all of this in my mind, and hearing several students openly discuss their frustration for math, my mind jumped into action and I voiced my gamble on that first day. Wish me luck! I’m determined to succeed!
ps. Not to brag, but within a week of starting classes, I’ve already won over one student! She told me she never liked math before, but my class is now her favorite class! Success!!