Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Tag: MTBoS

Helping My Student Assistants Change Their Thinking About Math

A number of kids this cycle came to my desk begging to have a teaching assistantship to fill their schedules.  Since I have boundary issues, I now have to plan for these kids on top and their learning as they watch the rest of the class learn.  These teaching assistants are not student teachers from a local college. They are high school students, who are not necessarily stronger than any of their peers.  One student said they have a really bad history with math and another had not passed a class in over two years.  With these student assistants I could have pursued very talented math students, but they usually don’t have any trouble filling their schedules, nor would they have as much to gain from the experience.

Why have assistants at all?  Isn’t just more to manage?

Having assistants is certainly a job, and it is not worth doing if you do not have goals for them.  My goals for them is to have them view math from my perspective.  They will help students in class, grade the assignments that I grade, and talk with me about misconceptions students might have before giving feedback.  At the end of this I hope the students take a different view of mathematics.  Perhaps they could go on to take a serious interest in math in college, but I would be happy if they just approach the subject differently.  At the least, I hope the students would view math as something they can work to improve, and mathematical “bad”-ness isn’t a terminal illnees, but can be treated through correcting their misconceptions and developing a productive disposition.

For the rest of this cycle I am excited about getting them to finish the rest of the work for the class.  I want them to have a working version of the project that the rest of the class.  In addition, they could learn a lot from having to think of ways to scaffold the project, or re-word the current project.  Lastly, I will ask them to write about their approach to math, and if it is different than it was when we started. Their reflection will be informed by Approximately Normal’s posts on student teachers, but I’m open to suggestions…

We’ll see if any of the kids want to follow their teacher’s footsteps and teach a lesson their peers, but if they do I hope they will be able to get through it.


#19/33* MTBoS  *I took two days off over the weekend, and I missed another one a week ago, so I am going to keep this thing going longer to make up for it (Or maybe I’ll just be one of those once-a-day bloggers).

Thanks MTBoS! For Helping Me Turn A Lesson I Was Scared Of Into One I Am Excited About!

So late last night was like most nights lately.  I needed to make a post and since I did not have a particularly witty story or an educational diatribe to roll in to, I really was just trying to keep the streak alive.  Since I had just finished looking at kids’ final projects, I noticed how all of them needed help doing or even attempting the “Generalizing Problems” worksheet.  That worksheet felt worse than anything I did all year.

So I wrote out a post late last night and placed the worksheet that so many students struggled with right in there.  Did I mention how bad I felt about this worksheet? Anyways, the next day I woke up a little more comfortable with the idea of having this thing that scared me out in public, so I asked for some ideas to improve it.

After this a torrent of ideas came my way about how to get students to write proofs, how “proof” should be thought about, and many other things I could do to improve this lesson for the next time I teach it.  I also tried to quietly back out of what seemed like a long standing argument about whether rectangles or triangles are better (it’s triangles, right?).

Either way, it made a day better that otherwise wouldn’t have been, and will hopefully make my students better mathematicians! Thanks #MTBoS! I will try to incorporate some of this into what I have going for the rest of the year, or I will do it the next time I teach the course, but I appreciate it all a great deal.   If I do I will post my new and improved materials here.  Hopefully, I can give back what I have gotten to other teachers on the blogosphere.   11/30 #MTBOS30


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