Young children in the early years love to explore, discover, work together, and make connections in their classrooms. If they succeed at learning and it’s fun, they want to learn more. It’s during these years, specifically K–2, that they form attitudes about learning. Especially about math.
If they receive the right instruction, in the right environment, they will learn to love math now and, hopefully, the rest of their lifetime. As a teacher, the goal should be to instill in children an I-Can attitude about math. Knowing they can solve math problems builds self-confidence and motivates the learner to tackle other, more complex challenges. We don’t have to tell you how valuable that skill will be later in life.
Now, we understand how challenging the Common Core State Standards for math can be. Thank goodness, teachers have a roadmap, the 8 Mathematical Practices. Sounds like another buzz word, but it’s not. It’s much more. It describes the very foundation young students need to achieve at top levels.
Attitude is not mentioned anywhere in these practices. But it is beyond doubt an integral part of them. The kids who succeed at the new standards and the 8 Mathematical Practices have an I-Can attitude. They believe … they know:
I can make a plan, carry it out, and evaluate its success. (Practice #1)
I can think of problems in my head first. (Practice #2.)
I can make a plan, strategize to solve a problem, and discuss others’ strategies, too. (Practice #3.)
I can use math symbols and numbers to solve problems. (Practice #4.)
I can use math tools, pictures, drawings, and objects to solve problems. (Practice #5.)
I can check that my strategies and calculations are correct. (Practice #6.)
I can use what I already know to solve a problem. (Practice #7.)
I can use a strategy I used to solve another problem to solve this problem. (Practice #8.)
This week, challenge your students to switch their thinking from what they can’t do to what they can do. Over the course of the week, what changes are you seeing? Here’s some look-fors:
• Instead of jumping into a problem, the student can critically analyze it.
• When explaining their thinking, they can distinguish correct thinking from that which is flawed.
• They can create coherent arguments and use symbols to represent math situations.
• They can take what they’ve learned and apply it to everyday life.
• They can communicate what they’ve learned clearly and accurately.
• They can consider the tools available to them—from pencil and paper to manipulatives.
• They can detect patterns and structures in math. They know 3 + 4 and 5 + 2 mean the same thing.
• As they work through math problems, they can continually reevaluate if they are on the right track
For more tips on how to create excitement and a positive attitude about math in your classroom, check out SDE’s webinar 8 Mathematical Practices: Addressing the Higher Standards (Grades K–2) by author and intervention expert Shannon Samulski.
It’s no secret that math learning rewards those children who approach it with a positive attitude. How can you use the 8 mathematical Practices to imprint an I-Can attitude in your little mathematicians? Let us hear your thoughts!