Reflections is a monthly column for teachers, by teachers on topics of interest to mathematics educators: reflections on classroom experiences, professional development opportunities, resource reviews, and more. If you are interested in sharing your own ideas with mathematics educators in the province (and beyond), consider contributing to this column! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 Teaching Resolutions
A new year means a new start. A time to reflect on the previous year and a time to set goals for the year ahead.
- Practice more math.
As I don’t teach math frequently, I can often go quite a while without doing any “challenging” math. What I mean by “challenging” is math that goes beyond just the basic facts—the math where you write a little and think a lot. I have now gone about seven months without teaching math, and, as happens with any other language, I get rusty.
I do co-run the math club and math circle at our school (two different extra-curricular math groups), so I do engage in some mathematical thinking for about two hours a week. However, I am often working on other things during this time span, and really only sit down with a question if a student brings one forth.
So, one of my many goals this year is to actually do more math. As I write this, I am sitting with my math circle group, after school on a Friday. I have plopped myself down beside a student who has quite a few questions, and I’ve been working with him on solving multi-variable systems of equations. Baby steps! I definitely want to get back up to being able to answer calculus-related questions without having to fact-check as often as I do.
- Find and share applications with students for each topic/theme taught.
Arguably the most common question in a math classroom is “When will I ever use this?” Last year, I was proud of myself when I was able to engage students with trigonometry by making connections to blood spatter analysis. My goal this year is to share more connections to careers where the math we are using in Foundations 20 is applied in practice. (If you have any suggestions for me, I’d be glad to hear them!)
- Find picture books that share math concepts used in a secondary classroom.
I grew up and went to school in Ontario, where education degrees are specialized based on a combination of two of four different grade levels. I went to school for K-6 (primary/junior) education, and later earned my certifications to teach K-12 (with specialties in French and mathematics).
One thing I particularly enjoyed about working in the elementary grades was the plethora of picture books I was able to use to engage students. Unfortunately, at the high school level, math topics become more and more abstract, and there are fewer and fewer “elementary-styled” resources I can bring into the classroom. What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by J. Ellis (2004) is a nice tie-in when introducing Pythagorean Theorem, albeit in Grade 7. I create my own pneumonic devices and songs, but it would be nice to have some picture books to supplement the other resources available (and how awesome would it be to have this in French?!).
- Partner with a math teacher. Learn from others.
As a French Immersion teacher, I often wind up in my own little bubble. Last year, I had the pleasure of collaborating with the marvelous Sharon Harvey, and I absolutely loved the experience! She challenged me to rely less on the textbook and to find some fun activities for this group of students. Unfortunately, we are no longer teaching at the same school. This year, I am partnering with the Foundations 10 and 30 teachers so that we can develop a clearer pathway for students taking the Foundations courses, making sure that they are well prepared for the next class.
- Try something new, and don’t spend as much time with the textbook.
Last year, I really wanted to try some flipped lessons (and students really wanted some videos in French, so that they could become more familiar with the vocabulary), but I couldn’t fully commit, especially since it was the first time I was teaching Foundations 20. Now that this will be my second time teaching the course, I feel a lot more comfortable trying out new ideas and strategies. Rather than committing to the term “flipping,” I would instead like to make at least one video to supplement my in-class lessons.
Also, now that I have taught each unit, I know where I need to spend more time and where I can incorporate more activities. I would particularly like to incorporate more up-out-of-your-seat activities, especially with our parabolic functions unit. I also have some new ideas for teaching linear inequalities.
I am looking forward to growing as a teacher this year in committing to these and other goals. As I have come to learn that life isn’t all about work, I wanted to share some of my “non-math-related-but-still-teaching-related” resolutions:
- Talk to more adults about non-school-related things.
- Leave school by 6pm, and leave work at school.
- Take more “me time.”
- Be more forgiving, with myself and with students.
- Read for pleasure.
Do you have any teaching- or math-related resolutions this year? We’d love to hear them!
Amanda Culver has been a French and mathematics secondary teacher within the province of Saskatchewan for four years. She aims to make her classroom a safe and supportive space to be and to learn mathematics. Amanda’s closet is full of math t-shirts, and she got a “pi” tattoo on Ultimate Pi Day. Needless to say, she loves math!