Monday, December 3, 2012

Mathematical Constipation

Have you ever had some kind of information you were trying to take in, but your brain just clenched up and would NOT let it in?

Yeah, I think I'm going to create some interesting visuals in this post.

I have students who go through this all the time. They've decided they don't get math, so they won't get math. Sometimes it's because someone (even a previous math teacher) told them they couldn't.

Excuse me. Must calm down the rage.

Other times, the mental block is self-inflicted. I have one particular student who spends so much time and energy declaring she doesn't get it and complaining about how hard it is, her brain forms a rubber wall my words bounce right off of.

Once I get her to slow down, take a breath, and listen, she gets it fine. I'm trying to get her to stop "clenching up" ... to relax and believe that even if she doesn't get it instantly, she will get it eventually.

Sometimes the old, trite sayings are true. Try this one on:

If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right.

Habits are hard to break, though. Getting students to loosen up their brain cells isn't easy. Building confidence in people who are at a stage of life where they're hormonally inclined to beat up on themselves is ... well, not impossible, but there are days where it almost feels that way.

I'm not into blowing sunshine at kids. I'm not going to tell them they're a math genius when they're not. I will tell them honestly that math doesn't come easily to them, and that's okay, because they CAN get it. They just have to let themselves. And put in a little work (or a lot).

Anyone have other ideas on getting this through to kids?


T.J. said...

Where were you during my math school days?

E.B. Black said...

Even though it is a lot of patience and hard work, I think your good attitude will get them through it. They might not change while you are their teacher, but it will probably change their outlook towards math in the future.

I was insulted by many science teachers while growing up and thought I *hated* science. I got this great science professor in college, was very upset about having to take the class when I first started, but by the end, he had made it so interesting and had been so encouraging to me that I had an A in the class and was sad that it was over.

I don't believe I hate science anymore. =)

wljennings said...

You have perhaps already read this Book: "Out of the Labrinth, Setting Mathematics Free" By Robert and Ellen Kaplan.