Dear Students and Parents,
I would like to let you know that at the top of my goals set for this school year, is my goal that your child leave 6th grade thinking, "that was the best year ever!" Second only to that goal, is my goal that they leave my class with a new found love and understanding for the study of mathematics. The author of What Is Mathematics, Really?, Reuben Hersh explores why so many students dislike math. He states that people don't like mathematics because of the way it is misrepresented in school. The way that so many Americans experience math in school is an impoverished version of the subject and bears little resemblance to the mathematics of life or work or even the mathematics in which mathematicians engage. Jo Boaler, a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University writes, "In my different research studies I have asked hundreds of children, taught traditionally, to tell me what math is. They will typically say such things as "numbers" or "lots of rules." Ask mathematicians what math is and they will more typically tell you that it is "the study of patterns" or "a set of connected ideas."
During the year students will be given challenging tasks that are more relevant for the modern world and "spoon-fed" less. Instead of being "told" how they should do the math and then practicing "the teacher's way" several times, they will need to learn to choose, adapt, and use methods on their own. Solving tasks that are set at a level which allow for productive struggle will allow my students' brains to grow. Research shows that it is through these times when the brain does the most growing. "Research also shows that when students make a mistake in math, their brains grows, synapses fire, and connections are made. This finding tells us that we want students to make mistakes in math class and that students should not view mistakes as learning failures but as learning achievements." (Jo Boaler, What's Math Got To Do With It, Penguin Group, NY, New York, 2015) "But surely students have to work through their error and see why it is a mistake for brains to grow". This is a reasonable assumption, but students do not even need to know they have made a mistake for brains to grow. Our brains grow when we make mistakes because those are times of struggle, and our brains grow the most when we are challenged and engaging with difficult, conceptual questions. (Jo Boaler, What's Math Got To Do With It, Penguin Group, NY, New York, 2015) Lets get together and grow our brains!