Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Real life math

So today, while I was supposed to be listening to the speaker in my workshop (and I was! I'm actually really excited to implement what I've been learning in my classroom), I was busy solving a math problem. It looked something like this:

15.8 + x = 14.1
______
2

15.8 + x = 28.2

x = 28.2 - 15.8

x = 12.4

Where x is my average speed for the second half of Sunday's ride.

I am not a huge fan of math. When I first was hired in my district, it was with my request that I be allowed to teach language arts and social studies rather than math/science (which they honored the year I taught at the middle school level). While I've made great strides as a math teacher (now that I'm at the first grade level), I'm a much more natural reading teacher.

However, running and cycling are making me stretch my math brain. It's all about math: splits, pace, average speed over time, etc. This math isn't practice; it's purposeful. It means something to me. I want to get this idea across to my students, that math isn't just a worksheet or a problem...it's a process that helps you figure things out.

I had a conversation about this with a friend lately. Her son, a bright 9 (?) year old boy, isn't a fan of math and struggles with some of the tasks he's supposed to have learned. She has tried to help him practice, has hired a tutor, has worksheets for the concepts that need reinforcing. He is not enthralled...or even receptive. My Little J is similar; he doesn't struggle in school (at this point, anyway), but he has no interest in doing anything resembling "school practice" or "homework". He doesn't want to take turns reading with me; he doesn't want to practice his letters; he doesn't want to use his reading or math workbooks.

But you know what? He'll read the notes I leave him and his fortune at the Chinese restaurant. He loves to do math facts in the car, read football players' numbers, and compare two teams' scores. He edits my notes and writes dialogue for our sidewalk chalk pictures. There is most definitely a place for schoolwork and practice. But our students/children can become our partners if we can show them the application of what they're learning.

Now just let me remember that and manage to do it throughout the school year.

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