How many times do you sit in your classroom looking over fluency tests or the latest reading assessment you gave your students? I have many memories of diving into these assessments with my grade level team. We would spend time looking at our student’s scores one child at a time. By the end of our meeting we would have various piles of student work based on assessments, classwork, and analytic memos we gathered. We would meet weekly and make any adjustments based on the behavior the students showed during our reading group instruction. My kindergarten teaching partner and myself shared students to make sure that all of our groups were as homogeneous as possible. I did the same thing with my 5th grade team when I made the move to teaching 5th grade. This model worked great to meet the reading needs of our students. We KNEW our students and their reading abilities as well as their limitations. We used what we knew about our students to guide our instruction. I cannot say we did the same thing for our math instruction. Why? This is a question I ask myself more and more everyday.
I’m sure that some teachers do get together and discuss the mathematics they are teaching to students. As teachers we would sometimes discuss which lessons we were covering for the week or where we were in the math book in comparison to each other, but we never really looked at what our students truly understood about math, to the same depth that we did in reading. Up to my last year in the classroom, which was in 2015-16, we were very focused on the math lessons and how to teach procedures. We would meet and just be confused as to why students again did not pass a test or how they did not understand a new word problem that was similar to the one they did the day before. We would sometime discuss new strategies to teach or the table that would help them group or regroup. All these discussions were done quickly or in the staff lounge as we ate lunch. What I am asking is – why is reading instruction different from math instruction? If we know how important it is to teach reading to meet students’ current reading level, could we not do the same in our math instruction? Shouldn’t we?
Math instruction should be taught in a similar way to how we teach reading. We should take the time to know just how our students engage in math problems and value the fact that not all of our students are at the same mathematical level. Just like with reading, we need to teach a love of mathematics. Teachers are amazing at realizing that we need to build life long readers. We should also aspire to have life long mathematicians. Imagine if students looked at the world through the love of reading and MATH! What do you do to support the mathematics of your students?