In his latest book, Embarrassment, And The Emotional Undelife of Learning, Tom Newkirk digs into the roots of what inhibits us as learners in and out of the classroom and offers strategies and practices that help kids and teachers alike develop a more resilient approach to embarrassment. Tom says "I contend that if we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do." The following is adapted from Tom's chapter on shame in the math classroom.
♦ ♦ ♦
When I mentioned the title of the chapter, “Math Shame,” to a fellow editor, she replied, “Actually I feel no shame at all. I’m just not good at math and I’m fine with that.”
There is probably no other required subject area, that we so regularly divide into the haves and have-nots—the ones good at math and then the rest of us. Math class is the motherland of the fixed mindset. For most of us, math never becomes a language, something that we can be fluent in. I suspect that for proficient math students equations must feel like sentences, as if there is a ready and seemingly natural syntax at their disposal.
Students may feel anxiety when the dial is turned to pure mathematical formulation too soon. And it occurs when the goal, always, is getting the exact right answer— when a good approximation will do.
Many students enter mathematics classrooms with a sense of trepidation. For some, their discomfort reflects a larger sense of detachment from school. They may not feel welcomed because of the gaps they experience navigating between their home language or culture and the expectations at school. The social milieu of school may make them feel like an outcast, as they see peers who seamlessly “fit in” while they remain on the outside. Unlike the sports field, their community center, or the stage, academic settings may make them feel untalented and incompetent. For other students, school itself is fine, but there is a distinct dread upon entering math class. Math has never made sense—or it made sense when it involved whole numbers, but as soon as the variables showed up, all hope was lost. A standardized test score that deemed them “below grade level” may have demoralized them. They may get messages at home that “we’re not good at math,” setting up any potential success as familial disloyalty. For some students, they love the subject, but must contend with others who do not see them as fitting their ideas of “a math person.” They have to combat stereotypes constantly to be seen as a legitimate participant in the classroom, as they defy expectations.
Students tend to weigh the social risks before taking any kind of action in math class. Staying silent tends to feel safer. So it’s important to create climates where students feel a sense of belonging and want to join in. In her new book, Motivated, Ilana Horn explores connections between the five motivational features of math classrooms—illuminating strategies that can make math more meaningful and foster students' sense of belonging.
We started our conversation with social risk. In Motivated, Ilana, who goes by Lani, opens the book with an examination into the big question of why students don’t want to talk in math class?
In her new book, Motivated, author Ilana Seidel Horn outlines the features of a motivational classroom. Based on her research, Horn has found that a motivational classroom attends to the following five features:
students’ sense of belongingness
the meaningfulness of learning
structures for accountability
Teachers can foster all of these through deliberate instructional design as they tinker to motivate their students. Here's where to start:
On Saturday, July 29th, Heinemann celebrated its fifth annual teacher tour. Each year we invite teachers from all over to join us at our home office to learn from our authors, share in thinking and learning together, and tour the historic mill building that we call home. This year, we were pleased to host authors Ralph Fletcher, Grace Kelemanik, Valerie Bang-Jansen, Mark Lubkowitz, and Cornelius Minor. Each author led a forty minute PD workshop session for the tour participants.
Were you unable to make it to this year's teacher tour? Fear not! We recorded each session LIVE for Facebook, and you can watch all of the videos below, along with the day's tweets and some presenter materials.
Math in Practice can be used with nearly any math program or approach. To help you match your instruction with the books, we've created crosswalks to several commonly used math approaches and programs. These crosswalks are available for each grade level, and cover: