The Math Struggle

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

the math struggle, stop rescuing your students

Welcome to my

The struggle is real guys ~ the math struggle that is... our district has been trained in using the Julie Dixon math strategies for a couple of years now and I have mixed thoughts about it, however....
My foundation for math was poor at best!  I have always struggled in math, growth mindset or not because I had NO... I mean ZERO foundation.  I basically skipped first grade and went from kindergarten to 2nd.  I was an excellent reader and tagged as gate/super smart back then ( mid- to late 70's ).  My mom was a teacher so I happened to be a strong reader.  So, my school put 4 of us into a 2nd grade classroom straight from kindergarten and on top of that our teacher was 100  very old and well how do I say this nicely - close to retirement and it was obvious that her head wasn't in the game anymore unfortunately for me.  I'll never forget raising my hand in class...granted I was not the outgoing person I am now.  In fact I was quite shy until about third grade.  I asked her to further explain borrowing/regrouping for me since I only learned the basics like 10 - 6 in kinder.  She lashed out at me and said,        " You are suppose to be one of the smart ones. "
" You just need to catch up with the 2nd graders and get to it. "  She DID NOT, I repeat DID NOT explain math to me.  The girl I sat by who was a 2nd grader...I'll never forget her name - Hillary said this to me, " You're dumb! "  Wow, I was broken...devastated.  I never raised my hand in that class again during math.  It's funny I taught first grade for 15 years...I feel like I was making up for the non existent experience I had in first grade in that 1/2 combo class.  Yeah, it was suppose to be a combo class and she literally said out loud,  you first graders since there's only 4 of you are going to just get 2nd grade twice.  WOW, that's all I can say.
So with all that being said, I spent about 20 years RESCUING my students in math.  FOR real folks!  If one of my littles looked like they were struggling in math - I jumped up and practically gave them the answer so they didn't feel like I did waaayy back then.  I never really thought much about it until I met Juli Dixon over 2 years ago.  
She spends a lot of her time teaching teachers to STOP rescuing their students.  That really hit home to me, I mean I was a teacher, I'm in the helping profession, I love kids...blah, blah, blah!  Let's face it I wasn't doing any of them any favors by jumping to their rescue.  There's something to be said about the productive struggle that students go through.  No pain, no gain we hear that all the time in regards to working out and staying in shape right?!  
I started to shift my mindset and try out some of her strategies and...guess what!?!  I learned a lot about myself and my students.  I reevaluated the way I taught math, looked at math and the way math was perceived by my students because of how I have always felt about math.  I look back and think how many times I had rushed through math to get to something I loved to teach...seriously!!!!  UGH!
I started to ask open ended questions and give tasks with less directions and manipulatives and watch them work in groups collaboratively to figure things out.  I gave lots more time to my math block and actually had fun teaching it.  My mindset began to change quickly as I saw that my students loved math and even more as I started to see light bulb moments all over my classroom start to happenMath is now one of my favorite subjects to teach!!!
There is a fine line between the productive struggle and losing the student I get it...but I do challenge you to look at how you are helping your students.  Are you giving them too much help/direction?  Are you rescuing them before they could reach it on their own and find their own success?  Just some food for thought in our ever changing and evolving journey as a teacher.  As always happy teaching my friends! 

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