Saturday, January 24, 2015

As I was scrolling through twitter the other day, I noticed this image with the caption "Public Education."  As a future public educator, this really disappointed me because this is not how I view myself.  Yes, it is common to resort to teaching the way you were taught and to teach the way you think about things, but I believe classrooms should foster creativity and innovative thinking.  This can be especially hard in math because everything depends on logical reasoning which tends to be pretty straightforward.  However, when there are opportunities to find creative solutions to certain problems, teachers should embrace it.  This creativity should also apply to finding new teaching methods to solve problems that will help students' understanding.

Recently in MTH 329 we have been discussing using number lines to add and subtract.  This is a method that I had never used before because lining up numbers vertically always worked for me.  As we placed the numbered post-its on the ground and started doing some calculations by walking back and forth on our number line, I really saw the advantages of using this method.  Of course, I prefer the vertical method for it's speed, but using a number line really enforced the basic concepts of adding and subtracting, especially when negative numbers are thrown into the equation.  It was also great for the classroom involvement it provided.  Students won't be falling asleep if they're moving around the classroom, acting out math problems.  

Not only was it fun in my classroom, but it really helped a boy that I tutor.  He was having trouble figuring out problems such as -4-6.  I asked him if he had ever used a number line to help him solve these statements and he said none of his teachers have ever used one before.  So I taught him how by drawing the number line on a page, labeling a few points, and showing him where to start and when to turn around and "walk" the other direction.  I had him start at -4 facing the positive side, then since there was a subtraction (or negative sign) we turned the little arrow I had drawn around to face the negative side.  Finally he walked 6 steps forward and landed at -10.  He really seemed to like that he could see the numbers in front of him instead of just imagining their quantities in his head.  As he worked through his homework he used his number line repeatedly and had great success with it.  A week later, he even said he drew a number line on his test and it really helped!  So although there's an inclination to teach how you've been taught, and to keep your thinking in a little box, it can really pay off to expand your own mind with creative new techniques that could greatly improve student learning.