As mentioned in the first post about Chapter 1, the author believes that students need to feel less stress and anxiety in order to be able to learn, so she suggests a few ways with which to reduce that stress.
1) "Retest to De-stress"
Willis recommends offering the opportunity to retest,
especially since math is based on foundational knowledge that must be mastered.
She states that "mastery forms the basis from which students can extend their neural networks of
patterns and concepts before they move to the next level." Retests provide the
chance to reevaluate answers and make corrections. Willis states that she
requires students to retest when they score under 85%. To address the concern
that retesting permits students to be more irresponsible when preparing for a
test (knowing they can retest), Willis states that there should be some
accountability, such as requiring students to provide evidence that they have
prepared for retests – like participating in tutoring, doing additional review,
or finding examples that demonstrated how a type of problem is solved. Averaging the original test and the retest for
a final grade would also help students to realize that they are accountable for
that original test score, as it will be part of their final grade.
2) Demonstrate the value of math
To develop students’ interest in math (and thus lower their stress), their imaginations
must be “captured.” Students need to see that math is found in places other
than just the math classroom. In upper grades, Willis recommends
cross-curricular planning to help students see that math can be meaningful
(though the only example she gives is having students help plan how to sell tickets
to help cover field trip expenses).
3) Start the year showing that you care
Willis suggests that students complete a math autobiography (I have my students do this - it's interesting to see what they share), have a class
discussion, or have private conversations about previous math experiences. Try
to trigger positive school memories, build a supportive class community through
class discussion, and include your own experiences, as this can increase the
bond with students.
4) Have students assess you
Willis identifies the following areas as areas in which her
7th grade class assessed her and gave her a report card: kindness,
organization, fairness, friendliness, favoritism, knows material, funny,
listens, and explains material well. Using the students' “grades” she found that
listening and explaining were skills the students thought she needed to work
on. She asked for more feedback and then had a colleague observe her to focus
on those areas.
In summary of the chapter, the author states that when “you reopen
doors that were previously closed by negative feelings, math is revealed to
students as an accessible, valuable tool to help them understand, describe and
have more control over the world in which they live.”
Chapter 1: Reversing Math Negativity with an Attitude
Chapter 1 was a little hard for me to get through- I don’t know yet if it’s the author’s
style, my lack of time to read for an extended period and really get into it,
or the fact that I’m reading it on a Kindle (I’m not a huge fan of the Kindle…I
really like books with pages that I can turn, but I’m trying to use the
Kindle). Anyway for whatever reason, it’s been slow-going for me so far:) Chapter 1 had a few points that I thought were very
interesting, so I will highlights those as briefly as I can (the most interesting point to me is close to the end of the post, so I hope you read to the end...or skip to the end)!
In Chapter 1, Willis states
that the first step to success in math is having a positive attitude, though
many of our students don’t have one.Willis
discusses the idea that “being bad” at math, or disliking math, generally seems
to be acceptable in our society. She cites a 2005 poll of 1,000 adults that showed
that twice as many people said they hated math than any other subject.Additionally, it was found that 71% of polled
adults couldn’t calculate miles per gallon on a trip and 58% couldn’t calculate
a 10% tip for a lunch bill. However of those polled, only 15% wished they had learned more math in
school. So, it’s ok to have trouble with math…and parents may certainly be passing this belief on to their children.
Some reasons for students’ math negativity, besides parental bias against math, include: low
self-expectations due to past experiences,
inadequate skills to succeed at learning math, failure to engage math through
learning strengths, and fear about making mistakes. This negativity results in
stress, low motivation, decreased levels of participation, boredom, low tolerance
for challenge, failure to keep up with lessons, and behavior problems.
Willis discusses the fact that students are often drilled to
memorize facts and processes without understanding the why behind what they are
learning. Instead, they need to work with problems that have real-world
application. If a real-life connection isn’t made, to provide personal value,
Willis states that the brain “doesn’t care.”She states that when students see math applied in real-life ways that
they care about, they can then really “get” math. For example, rather than presenting a word
problem about 67 people being seated at 8-person tables, students should be
given 67 toothpicks and index cards and be asked to model the situation. This
will build experiential knowledge.
When students are expected to learn arithmetic skills by
rote memorization (particularly at the elementary level), but aren’t good at
memorizing, they lose confidence in their ability to do math. According to
Willis, this results in an increase of math anxiety, lowered self-confidence,
alienation, and failure. Rather that memorizing facts, Willis suggests that it
is more valuable to focus on recognizing patterns and constructing mental
concepts that use foundational math facts.
I found the following ideas to be the most interesting in
the chapter. To be interested in math, children must be comfortable with math
(this makes sense) –the environment
needs to be physically and psychologically safe. The author suggests that when
parents pressure their children to do well in math, it can cause children who
can’t meet their parents’ expectations to suffer from depression, anxiety and
illness. If students have been very stressed about math, it can take months to
reverse their attitudes. The point that really
made me think (especially about someone in my own family) is this: when students
are anxious, the information that enters their brains is less likely to reach the conscious thinking and long-term memory parts
of the prefrontal cortex, and learning will not occur. Stress is the
“primary filter blocker” that needs to be overcome. Frustration due to
confusion is also a creator of stress that can block
learning.Beyond my family, I KNOW that some students come to me feeling stressed and anxious
from past math experiences (and other subject areas as well)...if their brains can't absorb information
because it's basically been blocked by anxiety and stress (for who knows how long!), it's no wonder these students don't remember anything that they have "learned" in the past. How can they progress if they remain in that anxious state??
The rest of the chapter discusses some ways to help build math "positivity." I'll make that a separate post:)
The eBooks profile
middle school and high school teacher-authors and include printable teaching resources
from 30 TpT stores in each eBook. The eBooks are categorized for ELA, Math, Science,
and Humanities (Social Studies, Art, Foreign Language, and more ELA). In them you’ll
learn things that each TpT teacher-author can’t live without and you’ll receive a 1-page
resource they think YOU can’t live without! They’re made especially for all of you and
you can check them all out here:
Welcome to this stop on our wonderful "Feeling the Love" blog hop!
What do I love about teaching?
1) I truly love helping students to learn! This may seem like a very obvious statement from a teacher, but I'm thinking particularly about those students who may have a little more difficulty understanding a concept and need some extra time to work with me. When we spend that time and that student really "gets" what we've been working on, I can see it in his or her eyes, and I know that they are starting to really understand. Those moments make me so grateful that I have had unlimited opportunities to help children learn over the past 23 years.
2) I love to observe students' "written" thinking. Seeing the way they express their thinking in writing helps me to understand their thought processes. It also helps my brain generate ideas!
3) I love to listen to students' conversations when they are trying to solve problems. It's so interesting to hear the different ways they express their thinking!
4) I love observing the way students can help one another understand concepts!
5) I love creating materials that present concepts in different ways. The freebie on this page is a fold it up that I just created to help students understand the way the ladder method can help them find GCF and LCM, and can help them to factor expressions as well! This will be added to our Fold It Up book:)
Do your students love math?
Do some of your students hate math? I know that I always start the year with at least a few students who say they hate math. When asked why, they can't always give a reason, they just "hate it." Why is this, and what can we do to change this for those students that are more difficult to reach?
While browsing on Amazon, I came across the title Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies That Change Student Attitudes and Get Results by Judy Willis, MD, so I decided to purchase it and see what the author has to offer. The book was published in 2010, but I hadn't seen it before...perhaps you have?
In the introduction, Willis points out that the work force has an increasing need for people who have
mathematical skills to solve problems (a higher-order thinking skill that is a
function of the prefrontal cortex). The prefrontal cortex is also responsible for:
personal responsibility, emotional response control, planning, prioritizing, gratification
delay, organization, creative problem solving, critical analysis, judgment,
prediction and self-motivation; these are the skills that employers are
currently looking for.
To help students develop these skills, we need to help change students’ negative attitudes to positive. To do this, Willis believes that students need to have opportunities to develop personal connections with math so
that they value math knowledge; neuroscience research says there is a
connection between “enjoyable, participatory learning” and long-term memory.
According to Willis, interventions to help change negative attitudes include:
-evaluating and planning so that each student is working at an appropriate level of
-building missing foundation skills through strategies like “errorless math,”
predicting and estimating, and scaffolding with cue words and previews
-teaching to students’ strengths and interests
-recognizing the link between effort and goal achievement
-using strategies to reduce negative responses to mistakes (model
appropriate reactions, discuss common mistakes and how to avoid them) and
increasing levels of participation
I am looking forward to reading more about these ideas and finding some new strategies!