What I’ve Learned From Teaching Math (Part 1)

We are teaching in a pandemic.  I am teaching first graders who are learning from home. I have decided to use the SOLC as a place to reflect on this experience.  I hope this reflection will help me become a better teacher, a better learner, a better literacy coach, and a better person.  Maybe it will help others too.

31 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Remote Grade 1 Teacher

This year I’ve had to teach math for the first time in a long time. I remember when I first voiced my concern over teaching math to my family, they said, “How hard can it be?  They are only in first grade, right?”  I tried to explain that it can be hard. Very hard, if you want to do it well. After all, I know how children learn to read and write. I understand the learning progression for literacy learning. I’ve studied it for years.  I am always learning, but I have a set of skills and a knowledge base that I can lean on.  This wasn’t the case for math.  When I did teach math, all of those years ago, I spent a lot of time using a text by Marilyn Burns. I don’t remember the title of the book (I think it was light blue and purple in color.), but I do remember that the problems were interesting, complicated, and that there were no answers in the book.  That meant I had to figure everything out on my own before I taught it.  I think that’s really how I learned to teach math.  

And so….when I saw that Jennifer Serravallo was going to have an interview with Marilyn Burns, I signed in.  And then, a few weeks later, when I saw that Lucy Calkins was going to present a workshop on writing and math with Marilyn Burns, I signed in.  Here are a few things I learned about how literacy learning and numeracy learning are alike:

-The focus is on the process:  

Teach the reader/writer, not the book/writing (literacy).  Give them the answer and have them focus on how they got there (math).

-It’s all about making meaning.

-The teacher’s job is to observe readers, writers, and problem-solvers, puzzle out what they are doing, know the process well enough to know where to go next, and then to teach so that children learn.

-Children learn best when the work is engaging (which often means just a bit challenging) and when the environment feels safe for risk-taking.

I may not know a great deal about teaching math, but paying attention to these similarities has definitely helped.

4 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned From Teaching Math (Part 1)”

  1. I wish I saw the two of them talk! I do believe good teaching strategies are good teaching strategies no matter the subject!

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