Green Marker = Opportunity@maxmathforum #MTBoS30


I’ve fallen away for a few days.  I watched this video tribute from Heinemann Publishing a week or so ago.  It struck me when I heard Max state he was in the “lower” math class at the time.  He went on to explain, because when they asked him which level he wanted to be in, the difference was the number of pages in the homework packet each week, he chose “the smaller packet.”

Yesterday, as I sat in a meeting, I voiced a concern that some current students were opting to not take Pre-AP coursework because they don’t want to do more homework.  Is that the difference?  According to my administrator, yes, students were told there would be more homework.  That’s the only difference students “heard” between the course offerings.

Watching Max’s tribute makes this conversation yesterday even more prominent in my mind.  I remember the first time I met Max, he looked like a young kid at TMC St. Louis but the words and ideas he shared were from someone who was passionate about math, learning and having a positive impact on education.

Its crazy to think if it had not been for the teacher asking him to participate in the Math Olympiad, would Max have gone through his education thinking he was “no good in math” since his in-depth thinking made him appear “slower / not as smart”?  My, oh my.  What goodness we all would have missed out on with his posts, resources from The Math Forum, Ignites to engage, inspire and challenge us and Powerful Problem Solving.  How many students have missed out because our labels have limited their opportunities?

My question?  Are we inadvertently pushing students away from the Pre-AP?  My administrator’s answer – no, we’re opening it up, so they can choose to take the those courses.  My concern – if all they hear is “more homework” its obvious what some will choose, they are teenagers.  So is that language intended to scare them away?  I’m standoff on policy that does not support a growth mindset, they feel they are already set up for failure, thus choose not to attempt it.

I hope I’m wrong.  In the mean time, I will continue to have conversations and encourage those students to step up to the challenge.  So many students do not have advocates to push them, it is our responsibility to help them find their own voice.

Our state Education Commissioner stated he saw it not as achievement gaps, but as opportunity gaps.  Now, my challenge is to make sure I am part of providing opportunities to all learners.


5 responses »

  1. HI Pam,

    I am offering something new this fall, I am calling it “College Readiness.” It is a math class for students with a C or better in Algebra 2. I am thinking of it as a Senior level math class for Humanities majors. Too many of our seniors opt out of math because they are not STEM students and don’t want to learn the ambiguous case of the law of sines, but are interested in keeping up their math chops. They don’t want to take AP Stats, but want to be ready for College Stats, they don’t want to take Calculus, but want to be ready for a finite math class in college. I am very excited to instill in these students a growth mindset, a love of things mathy, without having to be an engineering major. Wish me luck!

    • This sounds great, Amy! We have a Pre-College Math for college bound students who aren’t quite to benchmark ACT, but those who have taught in the past have opted to make it a skills based course focused on test prep. I will be teaching a math for business and industry for non- college bound seniors with focus on budgeting, finance, consumer issues like insurance, etc. The current instructor uses software that assigns jobs, students get “paid” for attendance and learning tasks completion, receive weekly check stubs w deductions, etc. They do resumes, job applications, community mock interviews. I feel it’s more of a business/marketing class than math, but oh well. I plan to spend a lot of time comparing investments, etc. As well.

      • Pam…thank you for sharing your post. Good food for thought for admins, teachers, and parents. Regarding your math for business and industry course…in VA we have a mandatory for graduation Economics and Personal Finance course that covers lots of those topics. I think it’s a great idea although listening to my students it’s definitely a work in progress (I think last year’s seniors were the first class to have the requirement.

    • Amy…it’ll be great! An idea if you haven’t looked at it, might be to look at the IB Math Studies curriculum. As an IB school we offer both Math Studies and Mathematics…Math Studies has that broad brush for students who will be non STEM majors, Mathematics is definitely the STEM path.

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