Making Math Emotional

This post is my response to the prompt for The Virtual Conference on Humanizing Mathematics:

How do you highlight that the doing of mathematics is a human endeavor?

Math was a pretty bland subject for me in school (K-12). It wasn’t until I got into more abstract math (Calculus and beyond) that I had some really engaging teachers and classes that blew my mind and got me excited to do mathematics!

I now try to spread that love of mathematics with my students (grades 6-12). I also want to make math feel more personal and alive. I want it to feel like an emotional, human endeavor. (Think of how emotional students can get about a novel or piece of music. Why can’t the same be true in math?!)

The two big parts of my classroom that help with this are:

  1. #DebateMath! Those of you who know me, know I LOVE to debate in math class. You can find more about math debate routines on my website (and in my upcoming book Up for Debate! this November!!). What I love about having a question (or several) that involves students debating each day is that doing math becomes subjective. Doing math in my classroom is not focused on the objectivity of answer-getting. Instead, students discuss and debate their methods, their reasoning and favorite parts. Students are talking about math, sharing opinions and ideas, and they often develop an emotional attachment to the math they are doing. Whether or not the math we are doing has a “real-world” context, students are continuously able to find personalization in the math that they are doing.
  2. Journals! (lovingly borrowed from Cindy Reagan) I have long wanted to have more opportunities for students to write about math, but I struggled to find the right fit for myself and my students. Then, I was blown away by Cindy Reagan’s wonderful presentation at TMC18. Through her presentation and blog, I was empowered to start journals in math class. In the past year, journals have significantly changed the way my students interact with math. Though they initially struggled/resisted journaling in math class, SO MANY students grew to LOVE journaling. It was a chance for them to look back at their work in the past week or two and talk about their thoughts and feelings. Students quickly seemed to form emotional connections to certain problems and methods. I gained new insights into my students’ thoughts and reasoning, and they got to privately share some of their insights/hopes/frustrations to me in writing.


-For more info on debate in math class check, sign up for my monthly newsletter here and check out the PBS video of my classroom!



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