Have you ever said those words, or heard another teacher say them? How about students? I have to admit I used to say it ALL THE TIME before I became a teacher. I never felt confident in math. In college, I took my math classes in the summer to ensure a passing grade. Now I no longer believe that “math people” and “non-math people” exist. Math is problem-solving and problem-solving is an essential skill that all students can master. We have to make sure that, as math teachers, we’re bringing the best attitude possible to our students.
The Mindset Began
I know exactly when I realized that I “wasn’t good” at math. I was a 3rd grader. I can remember spending hours at our kitchen table, tears flowing as my mom tried to help me understand the math concepts in my homework. I wasn’t blessed with a teacher who took the time to work with me when I was obviously struggling. Fortunately, I went on to have some wonderful teachers, but I never fully regained my confidence in math. In college, however, I was able to shift my focus from being a hesitant math student to being a confident and enthusiastic math teacher.
It Only Takes One Teacher
We know how one teacher can change our entire view of a subject. During my time at the University of Tennessee, I took a required course on teaching elementary mathematics. Over the semester I fell in love with teaching math, thanks to a professor who showed us what amazing things we can do with math instruction. We have to make math relevant to our students, and we have to motivate them by making it interesting. You can do so much with cross-curricular tasks, too! I love incorporating math into my social studies lessons. Calculate distance when studying geography, incorporate elapsed time when looking at timelines/sequence of historical events, and practice measurement and data skills when your students are learning about landmarks. Reach out to your Special Area teachers- find out what they’re working on with your class, and see how you can tie in math skills!
Attitude Is Everything
Most importantly- get excited about math in your classroom! Even if you don’t feel it, and even if you don’t consider yourself a “math person.” Your students will feel your excitement and immediately engage in your lessons. Be a learner with your students- help them explore math tasks and learn from them as you guide their discovery. You will be amazed at how a positive attitude toward math will change your lessons, and you may just discover that you are a math person after all.