Saturday, March 4, 2017

Momentum, yes! Performance, maybe..

We had some breakthroughs in math this week. It started on Monday when a student came in first thing to ask if I'd do some math with her during her Rover Time. Rover Time is a period in which students can pursue their own inquiry, practice skills, read, engage in discussion with others and present what they have learned to the class. The preferred Rover activity is to "research" - I'll blog about that later.

But on Monday, Deija asked for math. We had fun. A few others joined in. A good discussion ensued and soon they were sharing explanations and thinking.

I had planned to give a quiz on Friday, so this enthusiasm for math was exciting. Perhaps everyone would do well.

On Tuesday, more people were interested. Excitement was building. We did math during class, math at Rover Time, math at lunch and math after school. It was lovely to see students teaching eachother, encouraging one another, sharing strategies and trying over and over again. You can literally see the excitement and determination in their faces..

In some ways, this was the most exciting week of my teaching career. It was student driven, this thirst to get better. And it spread like a virus through our classes.

But then we took the quiz. It was ugly. I could talk a lot about the quiz design. I could argue that we might have made success more attainable - and those are things I have to ponder.

But my bigger question is not so much HOW did this happen, but WHEN will it happen? I believe that we are doing many things right. We're talking about what we learn, we're building an understanding of the WHY of math, not just the HOW, students are engaged and motivated - and yet, throughout the quiz, I saw people struggle. 

They wanted to talk about what they were doing - with me and with eachother. They wanted to use manipulatives. They wanted to do fewer problems and take their time with each.

Quiz design is one thing, but what they will be asked to do in a few weeks on the statewide test in another. How can we keep our momentum for math, while building the stamina, the speed and the silence they'll need to "perform" on the test? In a perfect world, this wouldn't be the question. But in our world, it is very real. And I really need to come up with an answer.

In the meantime, I will mourn our performance on the quiz. But I will also celebrate the bigger wins of this past week. Of Deija identifying as a mathematician. Of Caspar and Sadia collaborating to solve some really hard problems. Of Kayla insisting that she "can't" only to prove to herself that she really can. And of Taylor proudly marching up to the office to show her work to the principal.

I am hopeful that the performance will come. Maybe not for this year's test, but some day. And I am thrilled that the momentum is here. That will make the difference for all of us.