As a math teacher, it’s really fun to work with students who come to my classes already loving the subject, students who have already mastered the content from last year’s course so they are ready to dig deeply into novel problems in our courses, and students who feel really good about themselves as math thinkers. Doesn’t this describe most of our kiddos?
The reality is that a large part of my job ends up being working to alleviate the trauma that students bring with them to Algebra 1 or Algebra 2. They have known since second grade that they are not a “math person.” They feel that they are not as good at math or as fast at math as others around them. Many of their mathematical experiences have left them feeling inadequate, and math has been a place where their self esteem has been eroded. Not a big surprise that they have trouble accessing the beauty of the subject.
One of my grade 10 students showed up this year with all of the marks of earlier trauma. She was reluctant to speak in class or even when I worked one-on-one with her. When she did answer a question, it always sounded like she was asking rather than answering (…y’all know that “I have no idea if what I’m saying is right” tone of voice).
This week, she had a perfect score on her linear systems and inequalities assessment.
And this wasn’t an easy test. I always include some questions that ask kids to synthesize and apply, and to recall ideas from earlier work – typically, I have very few 100%s. In fact, hers was the only perfect score in the class. Although I generally avoid comparing students to each other, I couldn’t resist sharing this with her. You should have seen her trying to pretend that she wasn’t beaming! I wrote a note the her mom, to share how proud I was of this effort and of her success. When I saw her mom the next day in the school lobby, there were tears in her eyes while we spoke about this. She said that her joy had nothing to do with the score. She didn’t care about the test score, but she could see and feel the difference in her daughter’s confidence and sense of self. I couldn’t agree more.
What a wonderful way to begin my Thursday. The One Good Thing glow stuck with me all day!