Some math teachers focus on just getting through their textbooks. It may benefit the students more if the teacher takes the time to help them understand the answer rather than just knowing the answer. It’s important to show students how they reach an answer. Middle-school math teacher Jose Vilson shares his thoughts on developing mathematicians.
Most teachers want to do interdisciplinary projects, project-based learning and every other education phrase with the words “exploration” and “project” in it. Despite evidence to the contrary, their reality of having to teach directly to a standardized test (ultimately affecting their municipality’s perception of them) casts a longer shadow on them than even the bravest of us want to admit.
In math, the need to stand in front of the classroom particularly rings true, not just because of the stakes, but because of the long precedent set by previous math teachers to do exactly that.
Yet math teachers simultaneously know that, in order for students to solve problems on their own, we have to teach them not just the “what” but the “how.” “What” equals content, but I’m expanding the definition of “how” beyond simply learning skills and procedures. The “how” should be about how to help students think more critically about the problems in front of them.
In other words, the approaches and uses of the tools students learn in math matter just as much as the topics and situations in which they apply.