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Fears and Hopes...and Memories

This past month, I have been cleaning parts of my office, and "re-discovered" some papers kept from a past class of elementary teachers. It was an integrated content/methods course.

On the first day, I had the 24+ students respond with a short answer to the prompt: "Math is like...." I share seven of the "less-positive" responses:

  1. Math is like a giant puzzle (sometimes I don't think I have all of the pieces!)
  2. Math is like looking at one of these 3-D prints and not being able to see the hidden figures
  3. Math is like bad traffic--very stressful and I can never seem to get where I'm trying to go
  4. Mathematics is like pollution--I don't necessarily like it, but i encounter it everywhere I go
  5. Math is like a nightmare for me
  6. Mathematics is like brain surgery without novacane
  7. Math is like being blind folded, hands tied, and shoved off a cliff
Now, remember that each of these students probably became an elementary teacher...and not only "taught" mathematics, but also made impactful decisions as to how and what mathematics is taught. UGH! My heart aches in memory and in fear of these individual's impact on future students (especially the last four).

This is why I strongly favor the idea of math specialists, shuddering at implications of the above individuals passing on their attitudes towards mathematics to their students (and colleagues). How can education work unless teachers are not only teaching in content areas that they "want" to teach....but also enjoy!

But, I am a realist enough to know such is not possible (a realism built by 43 years of teaching and working professionallly with K-12 teachers). So, can the attitudes of teachers already in the system be impacted positively?

If you share in this concern, consider these resource articles as a start in the journey:

I realize that this necessary effort is an uphill battle, with few joined in commitment to the "full" journey. Whatever happens, we must attend to both the affective and cognitive components, while also accepting (but not validating) the historical background and contexts (i.e. less lip-service, less coddling, and more action such as using math specialists).

Note: I am aware that some readers will conclude that I am offering a self-serving sermon from a righteous perspective. Without apologizing, I suggest that I am not part of the equation any longer...each teacher needs to look in his/her own mirror and form their own conclusions.