Monday, October 20, 2014

Mathematical Thinking Reflections: Week Three

As I continue down the path of Coursera's Mathematical Thinking Course, I am cognizant of my role as a learner.

The course is both exhilarating and challenging for me.

The course is exhilarating because it is is introducing me to mathematical language and thought that I can easily transfer to my 5th grade classroom to better our math talk and learning. I like the rich infusion of modeling and thought that I'm exposed to and struggle with in the course.

What is frustrating is the fact that I need more time to do a really good job on this course.  I would have to devote a good 10 hours a week to really dig in and relearn a lot of foundation math that would help me to better grasp the deeper details of the course. I can feel my brain coming close to grasping all the concepts, but the fact that my foundation needs strengthening is making it difficult for me to grasp the course with the detail I'd like.

This course had helped me to identify many important questions with regard to math teaching and learning:
  • Do professional learning efforts for elementary school math teachers include too much time on pedagogy versus developing a deep foundation of mathematical knowledge, concept, and skill?
  • Do we give math teachers enough time to strengthen their foundation skills, assess their teaching, and develop craft? 
  • Do expectations for teachers include too many tasks that take the focus away from learning? 
  • Do we ask the right questions and focus on the best topics when we work together to develop our math teaching and learning?
The Mathematical Thinking course is opening my mind. I am learning about new ways to discuss, teach, and learn math as well as developing a thirst for more math education. In fact, I don't really want to go back to a general elementary classroom role again as I do think we've moved past the strength of that model for the upper elementary school students, students who are ready for more dynamic programs related to specific interdisciplinary topics. For example, the synthesis of math/science learning integrated with application of reading/writing skills is a terrific model for grade 5, a model that profits from the fact that my partner teacher is devoted to teaching English language arts skills, concept, and knowledge and social studies. This model allows us to continue to integrate subjects without calling us to be all things to the students--the specialization seems just right for our overall objectives for fifth graders.

I will continue to participate in the Mathematical Thinking course. I'll listen to the lectures, attempt the problem sets, and apply the new language and thinking to my fifth grade program in ways that help students think about and discuss the 5th grade math standards with greater detail and depth.  I'll also look for more opportunities to think deeply and learn about math--a subject that I'm delighted to learn more about.