I have recently been experiencing an awakening of sorts. I teach first grade but that hasn't always been the case. I started my teaching career in middle school. I taught sixth grade my first year of teaching and then I was moved to eighth grade teaching Math and Algebra. I have to say that this wasn't my choice but I also must say that I ended up loving it. I taught middle school for 9 years and really became a "math person". I loved teaching math and helping students try to really understand math. I lived, breathed and dreamed math.
Fast forward to the present (skipping over several years of teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th grades) and I am where I have always wanted to be. First grade. One big difference between teaching middle school and elementary is that in elementary school you must focus on so many different content areas. I have to admit that I haven't been living, breathing and dreaming math while teaching first grade. I have really been focused on literacy. I have been working hard to create reading and writing workshops where I can meet with small groups and confer with individual students. I love doing this but recently something has been happening with my math teaching.
This summer I ordered a couple of professional books about teaching math and then after school started, I heard about another book, Math Exchanges by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind. I ordered that, too. I couldn't find the time to read them but the changes in my thinking were triggered. I started to really think about my math teaching and began to try to remember the things I truly believed about math and how students can best learn math. I knew that I needed to make some changes in my math teaching - especially in the area of having students think for themselves and solve mathematical problems. Then came the Math Exchanges blog tour and I jumped in. It was the final push that I needed to actually begin to read the books I had and get started with my changes.
While reading Math Exchanges, I started noticing student thinking more often in math and asking students to share their thinking - something that used to be second nature to me but that I had let fade away in first grade. One day we had a spontaneous discussion about whether zero was even or odd and I was hooked. I loved how my students were so excited to try and figure this out. They had a very heated but polite discussion about zero and eventually came to an agreement that zero was even based on the patterns they could see on a hundreds grid.
I have been able to finish reading Math Exchanges during my Fall Break and I have so many plans to change the way things work in our math block. I still have more reading and learning to do but I can't wait to start making little changes each day - more to come about those changes in the next post. Thanks Kassia for spurring this math "awakening" in me.