So my district’s math coach (DMC) gave me a heads up about a free online course offered by Stanford and taught by Professor Jo Boaler called EDUC 115N: How to Learn Math. The DMC sent the email out to all the district math teachers before summer began and I think I just scanned it and shunted it aside — like I do with most things outside the realm of my immediate classroom that aren’t absolutely urgent/necessary during the months of March, April, and May.
But when I was cleaning out my email inbox at the end of June, the email notice for the class surfaced. So I signed up and committed to completing it before school started again.
(The class doesn’t officially end until September 27, but I knew if I had to finish it much earlier or else it’ll never get done.)
It’s been a great class, surprisingly so. I’ve never taken an online class before, but for some reason I’ve had this mentality that they are never as good as an in-person class. I learned a lot during this course, and had a lot re-affirmation on the things I’m doing right. And then the remainder was just a re-energizing of my teaching spirit. I really appreciated that part the best – getting excited about school again, looking forward to refining this thing that is simultaneously a science and an art.
Things I took away and will implement this year:
1. No more timed math facts tests! I thought these were a good idea, I’ve always enjoyed them as a kid (but probably only because I was good at them), and I give my students rewards for highest average scores between all my classes or most improved out of the entire class. But apparently the research says these things make students even more anxious than they already are about math. Student feedback from the research Prof. Boaler did included students being scared, nervous, and fearful for being stupid, which hinders students from learning the fluency that these timed tests were designed for. The research also shows that there are better ways for students to practice fluency. Granted, most of them were mobile apps that cost money. But perhaps I’ll buy one or two and dissect them so that I can recreate them in the classroom using the tech that I do have on hand.
Or maybe I can convince my new principal to buy a school-wide license. I met him for the first time this week, and he seems to like shopping a lot more than my previous principal. Shopping with protocols and a deadline for request submissions of course. We’re not the Kardashians, after all.
2. Growth mindset vs. Fixed mindset. This is a most interesting idea to me. That people can limit their own growth just by thinking it. And vice versa! I knew that the brain is an amazing thing already, but I was also struck by just how weird humans can be. René Descartes was right: You think, there for you are. If you think you can do better, you will do better. And then at some point in the future, you are, actually, better!
Wrap-up idea: I’m looking forward to making free online course a habit.