Book Study – Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 7

Look at me!  Back on track!

I don’t have any more answers than I did in my last post, but my brain sure is churning.  I need to make some big changes to my math instruction, but I’m forcing myself to take baby steps.  I want to make real changes that will be sustainable.  This post is heavy on theory and light on practice because I’m still working through many of the ideas.

(Real talk… I had this entire section finished and then my toddler sat on my computer and it all went away.  I will admit that I didn’t put them same amount of thought and effort into this section the second time.  Apologies…  You’re welcome to take it up with my toddler.)

Summary
This chapter closely follows Chapter 6, by giving ideas for how to structure a heterogeneously grouped classroom.  By following the methods put forth by “complex instruction”, students are taught by incorporating multidimensionality, group roles, assigning competence, and shared student responsibility.

My Big Takeaway
My math class is mostly homogeneously grouped.  It isn’t my favorite, but it is what it is.  However, even within my group, there is a range of experience and achievement.

I’m digging further into complex instruction and looking for resources to help within the classroom.  I’ve found a couple, but most of what I’ve found is geared for older students.

So much of what I’m reading is being echoed in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  While we tend to think of success (or intelligence) as something that people are either born with or not, so much depends on environmental factors.  We tend to think of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as remarkable talents that were simply born into their place as innovators.  They do have remarkable talent, but their family background and other life circumstances all worked together to put them on that path to success.

This book also pushes forward this theory.  I don’t want to leave one of my students behind.  They can all be successful with the right mix of experience and support.  I’m determined to make my classroom a place where everyone has the same opportunities for success.

Three Important Quotes

Oh my goodness.  Tracking and leveling are SO prevalent in my school system.  I have no idea how to take this on, but it is really important to me that we work towards moving away from this.

This is so powerful.  I know that I have frequently grouped my students and chosen their tasks for them.  I’m going to work to structure my math instruction so that all students can choose their level of challenge.  Why should I limit them?  It only makes sense that if we want to truly cultivate life-long learners who are motivate and driven, that we let them be responsible for their learning every day.

This runs so contrary to the strongest argument for continuing to level and track students.  Taking the shift off “fast math” and opening up the definition for math success will really help to shape classes into deep problem solving communities.

Final Thoughts
I think it’s important to realize that leveling and tracking students has everything to do with us, and not the students.  We group students to make our planning easier.  We couch it in reasoning that just isn’t true for students.  School (and more importantly, learning) need to be about what is best for kids.  Research CLEARLY shows that tracking students is NOT best for kids.  It’s time to think more creatively about what our students need.

I have SO MUCH more work to do.  I’m loving the way this book challenges me, but I’m still feeling a bit lost in how to implement these ideas practically in my classroom.  I understand them and I’m totally on board, it is just such a shift from how we’ve always done things.  I’ll keep looking for resources beyond this book to help.  When I find them, I’ll share them.

The next chapter is about assessment and grades…  I can’t wait!!

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