Spring Semester Begins + Math is a Language

School started back yesterday. I have some really interesting classes this semester. I am going to talk about my schedule and first thoughts on my classes in the next few paragraphs. Skip to the heading below if this doesn’t interest you, haha.

I’m taking Math for Elementary Education 1 and 2 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00-9:00 PM. The class is so long because the class is actually condensed. Halfway through Spring Semester, I’ll take my final exam for MAT 211 (Math for Elementary Ed 1) and will begin MAT 212 (Math for Elementary Ed 2), which will end when my other Spring classes end. Put another way, I’m getting 6 credit hours for this one slot of time. My professor is French and has a thick accent, but I understand him well enough. We haven’t dived in too deep yet, but from what I can tell, I’m going to struggle a little bit with this class because I was taught standard algorithm when I went through school, and I rely heavily on algebra. I’m so used to making equations to solve problems. This math is completely different than everything I’ve ever done.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have school from 12:45 to 7:20 PM. In that time I am taking Schools in Communities (EDU 230), Geometry (MAT 215), and American Literature (ENG 201).

Schools in Communities is essentially an introduction to Education. We’re learning about the history of education, different types of learning, and different types of schools. My professor is also including a PRAXIS element to the class, which will prepare us for the exam all educators must take before being admitted into an Education program at a school. I’m pretty excited about that, because it’s been years since I’ve taken any kind of standardized test.

Geometry is taught by the same instructor that teaches my Math for Elementary Education 1 and 2 classes, but it’s easier because I’m allowed to use standard algorithm in that class.

American Literature is …interesting so far. My instructor insists that we call him Ross, which is just weird to me, but I’ll get used to it. I’m a little nervous about this class because some of what we are reading is so archaic that it can hardly be considered literature. I’m talking about letters, sermons, oral performances, etc. A lot of it is dry, and it’s hard to understand because it uses words we no longer use, and references things that aren’t relevant today. I’m pretty good at English (It’s the subject I want to teach), so I think I’ll do alright.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are a little long, but I am excited about having Fridays free this semester. It will give me time to get caught up with assignments or studying I’m behind on, or to simply invest some time in my own hobbies or interests (“me time”) which I didn’t get to do last semester being in class everyday but Saturday and Sunday.

Math is a Language

My Math for Elementary Education instructor shared his leitmotif with us last night, and it really got me thinking.

Math is a language.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. We look at a word problem or question that is written in English, and we convert it to tables, sketches, number lines, or equations. We solve the problem, and then we convert our answer back to English to answer the problem. If you can figure out how to convert English to Math, problem solving becomes easy.

You know, it’s funny. We as people are naturally mathematical. Children grow up counting things, organizing things into groups, discovering patterns… Children, without exception, love Math. Children know the Math language. It’s not until they start school that children learn to dislike Math. I know a lot of people that hate Math, and the problem isn’t that they aren’t Mathematical, or don’t have a mind for Math. The problem is somewhere in their experience with Math, someone failed them. They lost their interest or confidence with the subject. As a teacher who might possibly teach Math (It’s one of the two subjects I’ll be certified to teach), I’m going to try to keep this in mind and think about it often. What can I do to change a student’s perception of Math? What can I do to boost a student’s confidence in using the language? If I can find answers to those questions, I’ll be a better teacher.

4 Responses to Spring Semester Begins + Math is a Language

  • Math absolutely IS a language. I find it’s still tricky for me, because I was taught in a specific way. There were no alternate pathways to get to the answer. I find that as in teaching and learning all of these new strategies that I’m reflecting on how much easier it would have been for me. It’s like unlocking a component or secret and really getting the idea. I’ve had to retrain my brain from the way I was taught and it’s made my quick math skills faster but it’s also helping me appreciate the subject.

    I find that my biggest challenge is making the math meaningful. My class is much happier I when they understand how the process relates to something or what they use these particular skills for.

    I’m cheering for you!

    • That’s my problem, too! I’m having to retrain my brain to realize there isn’t a one and only way to solve a problem. Today, it’s about learning the language, the skills you can use to solve any problem, and applying them where appropriate. The neat thing about it is these skills work for Math as a whole, so you’re not constantly having to learn new methods, but rather different problems you can apply old skills to. Unfortunately for me, these “skills” are brand new to me right now, lol.

      I bet you’re a great teacher, Snow. You care a lot about your students’ overall experience in your class, and that says a lot.

      Thanks so much for the support!

  • I loved math in school and i did good enough during 8 semesters of engineering… and though i have forgotten most of it, i believe it was valuable in forming an structured thinking. I guess i wished someone would have told me early on that while reaching an answer is important, the process to get it is even more so. And the reason you have to do so many math problems is so it gets engraved in your brain a new way of thinking and seeing the world… just my opinion.

    • I’m in a class now that teaches Core Standards, and they are more about how you get the answer than what the answer is. In fact, if I answer a problem correctly and don’t describe well enough how I got the answer, I get the problem counted wrong.

      I’ve dabbled a little bit in Engineering! While I liked it, in the end, it wasn’t for me.

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