I am cautiously optimistic. By the beginning of October of the last school year I was feeling deeply discouraged with my students' ability to do math. It absolutely wasn't their content knowledge that was the most concerning for me. Although, thinking back, their content knowledge wasn't what I hoped it would be either. I was upset because my students did not seem to enjoy doing math. Given problems that I thought were engaging, they would look to me, with a deer-in-the-headlights look and wait for me to scaffold each problem. They were uninspired by seemingly any challenge. Given our new curriculum, I anticipated that they'd come in with a strength in procedural fluency and deficits when it came to conceptual understanding. Both were lacking. Even the brightest students who had command of some procedures could not explain why they work and certainly couldn't create their own math models to support their thinking. Over the course of the year, these kids made very good gains but man, it was hard work, for me, but especially for them. Given this experience, I was predicting the worst.
We're only two weeks in, actually only six days really, and I am very encouraged. Let's be clear, given the math we've done so far, I can't really speak to their content knowledge but they have come in with some pretty great attitudes. Quite a few have already told me that they like math. No one has come out and said that they're not good at math. I have already identified a few kids who are really struggling with number sense and have a difficult time figuring out how to get started. BUT, even these kids are willing to jump in and try.
I've spent the last 6 days rolling out some of Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Maths activities and they have been well-received. These activities have a very low floor so most students could easily access the math. The activities emphasized collaboration, deep thinking, perseverance, etc. These kids are head and shoulders over last years class in terms of their willingness to participate and even struggle. We're heading into our first full week of school and we'll begin tackling the curriculum in a serious way. I'm trying not to get too excited but I'm already imagining what might be possible for these young mathematicians. I know that careful instructional choices and problems that will push their thinking paired with pedagogy that create a classroom culture where everyone takes risks and engages because they're supported by their classmates and their teachers will make all the difference.
So, my next task is to tackle my plans and to seek out my own inspiration. It is going to be a great week.