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Content: What is it like to teach math?

Background

There are many ways to teach math,

 

and there are many teachers who teach math.

There might be better and worse ways to do it, but we are pretty sure that no one way is best especially because

different students have different math needs.

We want to help you think about differences in how you will approach the teaching of math.

We want to have you begin to think about how you will fit in to the mix of teachers of math.

Many elementary teachers teach math because their job is to teach everything.

 

In middle schools and high schools, specialization is typical.

Procedures

Ask three teachers who teach math to talk to you about their experience.

  1. Ask three teachers the given questions below
  2. Listen attentively
  3. Take very good notes or record
  4. Pause and review your notes after each session
  5. Pause and integrate the information across interviews to find contrasts and comparisons
  6. Think about your views compared or contrasted with theirs
  7. Share what you learned in one of our Workshop group sessions or with a colleague.

During this interview you can have lunch together, or meet after school or before, or perhaps someplace in the community that’s convenient: whatever works. Anyone who teaches or has taught math will do…perhaps including another paraprofessional who has worked in a math classroom!

 

The point is for you to ask a few questions and get the teachers talking.  People love to talk about their work! While they talk, listen carefully, and don’t say anything about what you think about math or teaching. You can ask questions about what the teachers say in order to find out more. But they should do 98% of the talking, and you should do 2%.

Here are some questions to use:

  • What do you like best about teaching math? (Why? Tell me more. How does that work?)
  • What do you like least about teaching math?  (Why? Tell me more. How does that work?)
  • When you first started teaching math, how did you feel? How has that changed over the years?
  • How much math, in your opinion, can everyone learn? (Why? Tell me more. How does that work?)
  • Why do people think math is a difficult thing to learn? (Why? Tell me more. How does that work?)
  • What approaches do you use for teaching math? (Tell me more. How does that work?)
  • What is math? (This is a tough question!)

 

If you are working on this material in a class or workshop rather than individually, your instructor can adapt this activity for small-group work.

TAKE NOTES

  1. Use the questions to interview three people who teach math in schools (or colleges).
  2. Make notes.
  3. Review your notes to help you decide how the teachers are the same and different.
  4. Think about your perspective on the teaching of math in light of the perspectives shared by the three teachers.
  5. Talk to someone (a friend, colleague, or small group in a class or workshop) about what you learned.

Module: Helping Students Do Math

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