Tuesday, December 27, 2011
When I was in college ELAR (English Language Arts and Reading) instruction was emphasized SO much; the majority of my classes focused on reading, reading, reading. We developed lesson cycles and thematic units, tutored and gave reading inventories to students, and participated in numerous reading labs, i.e. field experiences. All were great experiences and taught me a lot! My first real teaching job, however, was 4th grade math (and still is). Teaching math was not intimidating to me--after all, math has always been my best subject. I didn't realize though until after getting started that I was NOT as prepared to teach math as I was to teach reading (which I didn't do). In college, math did not receive the same emphasis reading did (at least at my alma mater). I had a few classes about math instruction but not nearly as many as ELAR. The only field experience we participated in for math was student teaching (IF you were placed in a classroom that taught math).
In bloggy blog world there are SO many ELAR experts--you all make the neatest products and have the neatest ideas to incorporate into instruction. It is really encouraging to know that I could get help with anything ELAR from numerous sources should I need it (since I do not teach ELAR at this time). However, there is slim-pickin' when it comes to math experts. I think being a math expert is more than just creating fun games and neat activities. To me, a math expert understands math well and understands how children learn math; he/she knows how to build a foundation AND knows/understands more than just processes, procedures, and rules. He/she knows the "how" and "why" behind such processes, procedures, and rules, and uses this knowledge to help children understand them. Most importantly, a math expert understands that mathematical concepts should be explored and NOT taught solely using a set of rules and procedures (note that I am emphasizing a point by using rules, procedures and processes several times!). Effective mathematics instruction is paramount in the early years as it serves as the building blocks for higher level concepts. Building a strong mathematical foundation in the early grades is vital for success in math as building reading foundational skills is crucial in learning to read. (For instance, algebra is not something reserved for a middle school math class, rather a concept that is introduced and built upon in the early years in life.) 4th grade teachers should not have to teach 1st grade math as 6th grade teachers should not have to teach 4th grade math.
My hope in launching this series is to encourage you to reflect upon your own teaching and thinking (as I have and still do) in order to enhance mathematics instruction in your classroom. Please note that I KNOW that I do not have all of the answers which is why I encourage you to actively participate in this series with me (one of the many benefits of being a part of an online community of teachers!). I hope to challenge you to examine your methods and ways of thinking. Though we all come from different places, backgrounds and may have different teaching styles, our goal is the same--to EDUCATE children.
Thanks for your interest and I SOO look forward to your input! :D