First Friday - January 2017
These First Friday posts are collections of the most interesting links and resources I've discovered in the previous month. Please share your thoughts and favorite finds in the comments!
This collection focuses on the role of dispositions and mindsets in mathematics. We can do all the work in the world as teachers to teach well - use the right strategies, respond to our learners in developmentally appropriate ways - but if our students are not engaged, if they don't see the purpose, that work does not matter. Helping learners see that people (who look like them) DO mathematics in lots of ways and to solve lots of problems, connecting mathematics (and all the STEM fields) to human history, is critical to engaging learners.
I was on a tour at an observatory over the Thanksgiving holiday. Our guide explained to the group the role of mathematics in the discovery of the outer planets and asked who liked math. All the children in the group (and a few of the adults) raised their hands. Our guide's response? "You won't when you get to calculus."
So many messages, including this one, make it OK to not like math or to believe you just aren't good at math. A growth mindset is an essential frame for teaching mathematics; it also requires real skill to implement effectively in the classroom. This article from KQED's MindShift blog includes excellent insights into making a growth mindset part of your classroom.
Part of changing society's attitude towards mathematics is making the work of mathematics and mathematicians more public and more accessible, especially to young people. Math is often taught as a series of facts and procedures without a human story attached. My Ignite talk at the NCTM Philadelphia Regional Conference focused on the power of story to help young learners understand mathematics. These books for adults (and the Hidden Figures movie) make public other stories we can share with young people about how we use mathematics.
This terrific article is a thoughtful commentary on the importance of factual accuracy in children's literature. How do authors balance scientific reality (butterflies emerge from a chrysalis, not a cocoon) with the narrative they are creating? As adults, what do we need to think about when we read books with children?
Please share your own favorite finds in the comments below.