Math – Atmosphere For Success

August 15, 2008 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

I thought that this would be a good place to start. Every teacher has a series of core beliefs that forms their educational philosophy, and what works for some will not work for others. I suppose that in some way it’s like athletic coaching – there are lots of ways to achieve your objectives, and there are many ways to be an effective instructor. In the next few posts I will share the ideas that work for me, starting with classroom atmosphere.

First and foremost, I believe that a comfortable, positive classroom atmosphere gives developmental mathematics students their best chance for success. Think about it, many students are intimidated by mathematics. By creating a positive & comfortable classroom atmosphere, you can help your students to relax and put forth their best effort. If a student does not believe they have any hope of learning mathematics and passing your course, it’s probably just a matter of time until they give up and disappear. If a student feels comfortable in your class, they may just forget that math is hard for them. If they manage to stick around to enjoy some success, no matter how small, they will realize that they CAN do this. Success leads to further success, and my goal is to give my students a chance to taste success as early as possible in the course.

Developmental mathematics students view their instructor as someone who possesses the math knowledge that has eluded them. Therefore they perceive a chasm between their instructor and themselves, and that gap can prevent them from connecting to the material. By creating a comfortable environment you improve the chances that your students will form a connection with you, and hopefully that leads to a connection to the material.

If you don’t believe that students feel disconnected from their instructor, try the following exercise on day one – ask your students to draw a picture of a “mathematician”. Expect to see lots of pictures of little bodies and big heads, some glasses, some pocket protectors, and some crazy Einstein hair. It’s very likely that the pictures look like no one in the room, no one except you that is.

If you are able to create a comfortable classroom atmosphere, your students will start to see you on their level. They will see you as a teacher, not as a mathematician. They will start to see you as someone who is there to help rather than as an obstacle that they must somehow get around.

In my next post I’ll discuss some techniques for creating the positive, comfortable atmosphere that will give your developmental mathematics students their best chance to learn and understand mathematics.


Entry filed under: Math. Tags: , , , , , .

George Woodbury – Welcome to my Blogarithm! Incorporating Student Contracts to Improve Success in a Developmental Math Class, part 1

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