• Home
  • Chapter 1 – Option 1 (Reflection)


Chapter 1 – Option 1 (Reflection)

01/17/2020 9:30 PM | Karen Campe

Tracy tells about her mother’s experiences with math as a learner and as an adult. Share a brief “math autobiography” of your experiences.


  • 01/18/2020 7:58 AM | Patty Chenail
    I can completely relate to Tracy's moms experiences. I would categorize myself as the worst midde/high school math student ever. I never had a teacher to teach me the way I needed to learn. I was forced to memorize and do things a specific way there was never an alternate approach. I needed to draw, have tactile objects, have someone relate it to life or prior learning. It wasn't until I had my first job in an office and I realized that I liked "office math" because it made sense to me. I was promoted to a sales position where I had to quote prices for sheets of metals. I had to calculate prices based on the thickness and densities of the metals. It was then that I realized I wasn't as terrible as my math teachers made me feel.

    I went to college later in my life. Started off taking math classes for no credit just to build my confidence. I had a math teacher that "clicked". I took as many math courses with her as a I could. It was because of her that I realized I wanted to do this! I made the decision that I wanted to help children realize that they too could conquer their math fears. I must also say that after reading only two chapters of this book, I am drawing on my positive college math experience to be sympathetic to my students. I actually had a discussion with them using the question, "What is math"? It was awesome!
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/18/2020 5:54 PM | Kim RImbey
      The power of a teacher - we truly do make a difference. I'm glad you found one who did right by you. ;-)
      Link  •  Reply
      • 01/19/2020 11:47 AM | Nicole Gilson
        I read your post after writing mine and it is very similar! I gained my math confidence through application as well. Memorizing does not work for everyone. As students we had the right to learn in the manner that worked for us.
        Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:18 PM | Karen Campe
      Sympathy and compassion for students is essential! Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/18/2020 12:50 PM | Peggy Bell
    I can relate to Tracy's mother's experience. When I read the sentence. "A teacher ridiculed me for my inability to perform long division at the blackboard in third grade." I was that student with my palms sweating and my stomach filled with butterflies worrying if I was going to be one of the four called up to the chalkboard to do long division and feeling lost and embarassed. I went through elementary school never being offered manipulatives or an opportunity for self discovery. After that experience I was forced to look for the "formula" for math so I could follow rules to get the right answer and this process took me through high school and college. It was not until I went back to school to obtain my masters in education, in a math teaching class,that I looked at another way to teach math to my students.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/18/2020 5:54 PM | Kim RImbey
      Aaaaahhhhh...the power of a teacher goes both ways - s/he can do amazingly great things and s/he can do harm. I'm so sorry you had to endure this.
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/19/2020 11:45 AM | Nicole Gilson
    As a child I went to a few elementary schools. By 7th grade I had been to private school and 2 public schools. Continuity between the grade levels and curriculum was not consistent. I vaguely remember being "grouped" for math, but I do not remember strong direst instruction or mini lessons with gradual release of responsibility. Looking back on it my number sense was not developed and I was truly fearful of math. This struggle continued into my 20s until I began to use numbers for my first job as a marketing assistant. Using math was in "context" for me. My confidence grew. I also was living on my own budgeting groceries/gas/rent etc. and I was successful. I finally went back to school to become a teacher and was introduced to using manipulatives/modeling and realized I would have been much more successful learning math in today's educational world. My struggles as a child make me a better teacher. I know that compliant child who appears to understand, but is afraid to ask for help for fear of being told they were stupid or not paying attention. I also feel that in elementary school homogenous leveling is dangerous. Children absolutely know they are in the low class and vice versa. There are exceptions and outliers for the 2% above and below grade level. I believe that all students should be exposed to learning math in "context" and in a real life scenario that provides meaning and application.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:17 PM | Karen Campe
      "My struggles as a child make me a better teacher"... agreed! When I took a special ed class, we had to journal about a new learning experience we were embarking upon (tennis, for me). In facing that challenge, I suddenly saw math teaching in a new light! It made me a better teacher to understand the struggle of learning something that didn't come easily or naturally. Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/19/2020 10:54 PM | Kim Rimbey,
    I did pretty well in school math. I was a good memorizer, and I was a compliant student. I did my homework, memorized my math facts, and did great at Around the World. Honestly, though, I hated playing games like Around the World. I wanted to do well, but I hated that we students were pitted against one another, divided into winners and losers. Honestly, through most of my school career, I hid my math abilities. Most kids knew I was good at math, but I mostly kept it hidden.

    Perhaps the worst thing was that during my senior year (1983-84), there were no math classes left for me to take at my school, so I took no math. I didn't know until my ten-year reunion that a few boys traveled to another high school to calculus during our senior year. Why didn't I even know about it???

    I never particularly liked math, I was just good at school math. It's too bad no one helped me understand the merits of pursuing it. I got a minor in math in college because my ACT scores provided me with 6 credit hours going into my freshman year. However, I never seriously pursued it...I eventually went on to become a kindergarten teacher. Fortunately, I fell in love with mathematics via Piagetian studies, and I've now spent 25 years working as a mathematics specialist.

    I have no regrets, but I would have at least liked to have known my options...
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:09 PM | Karen Campe
      Kim, the idea that a girl would not be offered a college-level calculus class when boys were really wouldn't fly these days. Sadly, sexist expectations were more prevalent back then. I am also a 1984 high school graduate ;-) Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/20/2020 9:04 PM | Anonymous member
    i had the same experience as Tracy's mom. Back in the 1980, when I was in elementary school, math was taught as a set of procedures rather than exploring through hands-on activities to gain a solid understanding of a particular topic. The teacher focused on direct instruction so we had to take notes in our notebooks for a full hour and follow the same procedure taught by the teacher. Back then, the teachers had to use chalk and eraser as he or she was writing notes on the board. Thus, we had to take notes at the same time the teacher was writing his or her notes. It became a race of who writes faster than the teacher among my classmates. For assessments, quizzes and tests were used to measure our math ability to become problem solvers but no projects whatsoever. I recall back in third grade, the teacher would pick 7 students at random and he/she would quiz us on the time tables. We had to answer quickly otherwise we would get hit with a ruler. So, I hate it math because it did not make sense to me.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:16 PM | Karen Campe
      Cesar, I agree that hands-on activities are so helpful but weren't as widely used back then. Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/21/2020 8:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Tracy's moms experience is similar to so many people.
    For me, as an elementary student I always excelled in math. I was even identified as talented and gift for math. When I got to middle school, I took Algebra and it was the first time I struggled with math. I was having a hard time with some concept and the teacher was having people go to the board to work out problems. I had already asked for help with what we were working on and she said no. When I went to the board, I got the problem incorrect and in front of the whole class the teacher asked me if I was stupid.
    I went home and cried and thought I was bad at math. This experience is part of why I also became a teacher. I never wanted a student to feel the way I felt.
    I love to look at the world through numbers and patterns, it is what comes natural to me.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:13 PM | Karen Campe
      Cortni, your empathy is a key ingredient to being a good teacher: "I never wanted a student to feel the way I felt." Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/21/2020 10:56 AM | Jen Rianhard
    I was the youngest student in my grade and I struggled with math. I didn't understand how to add and regroup or what I was doing when I tried doing long division. I had trouble with my timed tests because I couldn't remember my facts quick enough and it was stressful. It wasn't until high school, when I took an algebra class and it just clicked for me. The teacher gave everyone time to figure out the problems, my math computations were faster and I just got it. After this class, I took two math classes my junior year to catch up to the rest of my classmates. I had more confidence in my math and it felt good. I now teach intervention and I'm hoping to teach my students different math strategies so they don't hate math and they too can feel successful.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 01/21/2020 11:30 AM | Alisha Signore
    I can also relate to Tracey's mother and many of you with awful math experiences growing up. The emphasis was always on speed and if the final answer was right and never understanding of the process. The teachers would show you once and expect you to be able to do it. There was no asking for help. It was always all about the test or proving yourself on the blackboard but if it was wrong, there was never error analysis like we do today and you had no idea why. Ironically, teachers never used formative assessments or adjusted their instruction if people didn't understand- they had to own it. There was no goal setting with strategies, no parent communication until it was too late and no differentiation. Perhaps most detrimental was always teaching one way- which was usually an algorithm requiring memorization of the process without conceptual understanding. There was no thinking about where students were developmentally- concrete, pictorial, abstract. Mindsets were created and lifepaths set. If you didn't understand something, there was no choice of another way the teacher moved on. This was a huge motivator in why I became a teacher- there had to be a better way!

    Today, I use many formative assessments and strategy groups to help my students. I encourage my students to problem solve with strategies that make sense to them and grow their thinking organically. We share out on the data projector daily what they were thinking. We reflect on what was difficult and what made us successful. We discuss efficiency and often change our thinking by the end of the share. We spend much time with growth mindset, mistakes grow our brain and all the important philosophies of math that students need to believe. When I learned about all the wonderful strategies and models that we now use, I completely fell in love with math. I communicate our anchor charts to parents so they can see how we're problem solving and why we value conceptual understanding over a rote process. We celebrate successes with meeting goals.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/22/2020 4:15 PM | Karen Campe
      Alisha, you mentioned error analysis. This is a really important component of learning. *Why* I got it wrong is just as important as the fact I got it wrong. Karen
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/22/2020 4:31 PM | Karen Campe
    In 1st grade, my teacher took a few of us “fast learners” to the side and taught us some multiplication (way ahead of schedule); I remember 2 x 3 = 6 with blue blocks. In 3rd grade, we did long division “contests” with larger and larger divisors, and I beat out the two smartest boys in my class. Being “good at math” was something that I was proud of, and helped lead me to teaching as a profession.

    In hindsight, however, I realize that what I was good at was actually procedural math that valued speedy fluency. The math teacher that I have become knows how critical the other parts of mathematics are: conceptual understanding, problem solving, logical thinking, and beauty & wonder. As several others have noted, using physical models, graphic representations, and real contexts are indispensable tools to help all learners (there are many other tools we could include, such as technology). I’ve reframed “show your work” into “demonstrate your mathematical thinking” as a key ingredient of my teaching. I also believe in building confidence in our students so they can be successful, and this means making space for students like Tracy’s mother who have had negative math experiences.

    Karen Campe
    Link  •  Reply
  • 01/26/2020 2:10 PM | Megin Sechen
    I always considered my self good at math growing up. I was a rule follower and math education at the time was just following rules. It was a lot of what I refer to as plug and play. I loved algebra because I could plug a number into an equation and easily solve it. It wasn't until I had to teach math that I realized I didn't have a deep understanding of math at all. It was harder for me to understand why things worked the way they did. Once I had to explain why things worked to kids I had to relearn math. It was eye opening to me and continue to learn as I teach math for depth of understanding.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 01/27/2020 7:53 PM | Stacey Daly
      My experience was really similar to yours. I was also a good rule follower and thus math instruction at the time worked for me. However, I had no idea how it worked or that there was meaning behind any of it. When I was in grad school, I had an amazing Teaching Elementary Math class. My eyes were opened to visual models and ways of representing numbers, equations and problems. It completely transformed math for me. I wish I had learned math the way it is now taught. I've learned so much in the last 10 years.
      Link  •  Reply
  • 01/28/2020 10:30 PM | Peg Murray
    Are you familiar with the saying “Man plans, God laughs” ? I had planned to write and post this response last Sunday, but then the Xfinity guy messed up my downspout and the rain on Saturday afternoon flooded my family room, so Sunday was spent cleaning up that mess.

    As a student, I was actually rather lucky, and had several good math teachers, benefits of being a military brat and changing schools often. I was also lucky that it didn’t seem so difficult for me, even if sometimes I was just memorizing formulas. I can say that today I have a much better understanding of math.

    However, as a parent, I watched as my younger daughter really struggled with long division in middle school. The previous summer I had attended a math conference, and learned another, older technique for teaching long division, and one weekend, we sat down and I tried that technique with her. The lightbulb went off and she understood it. We did a couple of problems together and then she took off, completing her homework, and feeling very confident in her understanding.

    Until Monday afternoon, when she came home and told me that her math teacher told her she had to solve the problems the way she had been taught. The momma bear in me came out and I was at her school the next afternoon with my math text in hand demonstrating that although the technique she was using was an older method, it was in fact valid, and she could understand the problem using that method. It was a very interesting conversation, and made me much more aware of the need to be knowledgeable in different possible solutions when teaching math.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 02/01/2020 9:31 AM | Becky Lyman
    I have primarily good memories of math in school. BUT in elementary school I do remember all the rote memorizing and timed tests. I can only recall being taught one way to solve any type of problems and it was that way or it was wrong. I was fortunate to have an amazing math teacher in high school and I truly think that's why I can say I love math. The classes (same teacher through high school) were engaging and supportive. I loved how in the book Tracy's mother came to see how much she actually used math in her everyday life. I think student's hear that they will never use math again and they buy into it completely since they only see it as equations and memorization. Math can mean so much more if we can get them to see it. I have tutored a lot of elementary students in math and found that when I give them a little freedom in how they arrive at their answers they are far more successful.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 02/02/2020 7:23 PM | Anonymous member
    In elementary school, I enjoyed math and remember feeling confident in my math classes. As I entered Middle School and later high school, it was my teacher's comments that made me believe that I wasn't any good at math. I wasn't fast enough with my math facts and I didn't pick up as quickly as other students. I liked math but found I had to stay after school for extra help to do well. I always enjoyed math and liked having the "rules" to fall back on as I worked through problems. Once I started teaching math and began applying it regularly, I became much more confident about math and it became important to me that my students developed this same confidence too.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 02/02/2020 9:01 PM | Luke
    I seem to remember being an average math student before high school. I did well but nothing out of the ordinary. As a freshman in high school taking algebra... I loved it. I found it easy and very doable. I remember having a positive experience with the teacher as he held a high standard for performance. I think it was during my freshman year that I was turned on to math and held the interest through college.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 02/05/2020 2:58 PM | Amber Bishop
    My math experiences as a child were very negative. I remember as far back as second grade being reprimanded for doing something wrong on a math worksheet and being told to fix it. I did not know how to fix it (whatever it was...) so I copied off of the student next to me. In third grade, Around the World with math facts began and I couldn't find the answers quickly enough and ended up hiding in the girls' bathroom. In sixth grade, I struggled to read numbers in the thousands and had no understanding of place value. It was so embarrassing to try to read numbers from the board with verbal corrections flying at me. In ninth grade, I actually had a math teacher ask me if I was stupid (in front of a whole class of freshmen and sophomores) because I asked a friend to help me understand something on a worksheet we had to finish before the end of class. Don't get me wrong, I had many caring, patient math teachers. Unfortunately, most of those experiences do not stand out in my memory the way the hurtful ones do.

    So, I guess you can tell, I have always struggled and therefore, hated math. That is... until I became a shopaholic as a teenager. It was amazing how quickly I learned to calculate percentages and dollars off of sale items I wanted. As an adult, most math comes easier for me, but Algebra still dislikes me. When I consider my math experiences, my hope for my students is that they never feel so discouraged about anything they are learning. We play games, draw and work hard to make math accessible for all students without leaving an angry little math gremlin in their memories for years to come.
    Link  •  Reply

The ATOMIC Mission is to ensure that every Connecticut student receives world-class education in mathematics by providing vision, leadership and support to the K-16 mathematics community and by providing every teacher of mathematics the opportunity to grow professionally.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software