And just like that Fall is upon us, you are just about a month into the school year — are you still refreshed, energized, and excited for the adventures ahead? SO, how do you keep that fresh face for the long haul? How do you keep your classroom a place of inspiration and excitement for your students? How do you keep that Back to School Glow. ALL. YEAR. LONG? Below are 10 ideas to help math teachers keep that back to school buzz.
Good teachers work their tails off! The list below is in NO way designed to add to your already lengthy list of things to do. It is, however, designed to be a support for when you need a little pick me up – a bit of inspiration when you fall into the status quo – a little something to try when you are feeling less than your normal superhero self!
1. Fall in love: Whether you knew that you were going to be a math teacher within your very first hour of Differential Equations OR you stumbled upon the math classroom with a bit of anxiety, find ONE math concept to fall in love with this year. Become an expert in that topic and you will be surprised how much fun it becomes to teach. If you aren’t excited about what you are teaching, then it becomes tough to get kids to engage. And, with math, you are up against some tough societal “I am not a math person” nonsense, so take ownership of showing your students that there is something to LOVE about math.
- Ted Talks are a great place to spark that fire. Want to see a great example of someone who has fallen head over heels for math? Check out Adam Spencer’s: Why I Fell In Love with Monster Prime Numbers.
- There are more and more MOOCs available that are focused on K – 12 education, check out Canvas.net (@Instructure), MOOC-Ed, or WizIQ (@WizIQ) to see what is on their schedules this year, there might be a good opportunity to gain expertise. I just signed up for Fraction Foundations… you should join me.
2. Seek inspiration: Get out of your own classroom when you can. Use one planning period a month, or even a quarter to visit another classroom. For bonus points (not that I am giving them out, but..): see #3
3. Be inspiring: Welcome others into your classroom. The traditional, closed door approach doesn’t do much to build a community of learners and only encourages missed opportunities for professional improvement. It might be scary, but open up your door to others to share ideas and receive feedback.
4. Add to the learning environment in a meaningful way: Tear down any and all generic posters that don’t have specific meaning for you and your students. If you are going to add a visual distraction, make sure it is something you want your students to look at! (europaconcorsi.com via Pinterest)
5. Tackle a project: Find a DIY project that will take teaching math in the real world to a whole new level. Think personalized, fun, productive, real world, authentic learning. Is it making a kite, designing and sewing an outfit, or building a bookshelf — really building anything?
6. Socialize: Through today’s social media, we can connect to people around the world in new ways and learn from educators all over the globe.
- Join a twitter chat or two. If you aren’t following #mathchat, that is a good place to start. Looking for more, here is our current list of 50 Hashtags for Connected Educators, help us build a new list for 2014, but tagging tweets with #SmartCE
- Start a pinterest board with ideas, then…and here is the kicker…actually put some of those pins into action.
- Start a blog to share your own ideas and adventures or have your students start blogs that develop their ability to write about math and make connections (within your classroom and beyond).
7. Get Moving: Find an activity that will get your kids OUT of their seats. We know that when oxygen is flowing in the brain, we are more likely to retain information and to make stronger connections. Math doesn’t have to be stationary, so find a way to incorporate some of that physical activity that gets the brain powered and ready for optimal learning. I recently got the chance to check out Flip 2 B Fit (a board game designed to get kids active). Each product contains a set of cards that ask you to perform a variety of tasks from yoga positions to jumping jacks and push ups — and upon review, my mind immediately went to how they could be used in a math class. Imagine an obstacle course that incorporates problem solving and math practice with fitness routines such as those on the Flip2BFit cards — sounds pretty fun to me. Another great resource for active learning will be that pinterest board that you started in #6. Have fun with this one, you are sure to create unique experiences that your students will remember for a long time.
8. Talk it out: One of the best ways to help students make memorable connections is to encourage your students to TALK through and TALK about math. As Tim Hudson, from DreamBox learning noted in a recent google hangout:
The math classrooms that I want for my kids are places where they can engage in really great thinking and dialogue rather than as places where they go to acquire information.”
Pick an engaging topic and toss it out there for your students, see what connections they make and go where the conversation leads you.
Wow your students: If we want our students to go beyond just enjoying our classroom to really finding a connection to the mathematics, we have to show just how cool math can be.
- Find and share examples of how math is helping to make the world a better place (like this: Math Model Designed to Replace Invasive Kidney Biopsy for Lupus Patients, 5 Math Equations that Will Change the Way You See the World, or a variety of RadioLab (@RadioLab) Podcasts, my favorite: Innate Numbers?
- Ted Talks, Ted Talks, Ted Talks – here are some of my math favorites.
- Show surprising solutions. This teaches them not only to see math as more than just a set of rules to follow, but it also teaches them to view problems from a variety of angles – using math as the ultimate tool to solve problems. Here is an example from the Blow Your Mind Mathseries from The Math Teacher Institute (@MathTeacherInst).
Bump up the difficulty level: Choose a super challenging, open ended problem to present to your students. Be thoughtful in choice and make sure that students have resources available to really dive into it (in today’s digital world – the internet is just about all you need). There is no better feeling than solving a really challenging problem, make sure your students have the opportunity to experience this feeling!
Do you have additional ideas to keep your classroom refreshed throughout the year? Share in the comment section below, or respond via Twitter using #SmartMath
Instructure and DreamBox Learning are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.