The trickle-down effect of this announcement pours right into the laps of math teachers as we try to instill our passion for mathematics into our students. "My parents suck at math, they seem to not need it, so I won't ask for help, then I suck at math, then I'll find a job that doesn't need it". Unfortunately, we're not even talking about standard deviation, differentiation, or sine functions. We're talking the bad words of school. We're talking about the words that everyone knows, but they might as well not be allowed to be spoken at home or at family functions.
The F Word
Why? The one thing that students need help with the most is the concept that we're cutting? No wonder kids hate fractions. To make matters worse, we foster this hatred by skirting around them, cutting them out, or downplaying their existence.
I tell my students that we will be using the F-word. Not just sprinkled into a lesson, but throughout the year, we will actively engage in the F-word. We could dance around standards without using it, but it sure would be a nightmare trying to solve a problem like this without f'ing it up:
The A Word
"Man, I thought Algebra was last year!"
Yeah, sorry kid, but about that...
Parents see the A-word and the freakout begins. "Whew, thank goodness I passed that class and neeeeeever have to see that stuff again. Ever." Thanks a ton, ma and pa. Unfortunately for that mindset, Algebra keeps rearing its ugly and vicious head throughout high school and college mathematics, so we need to get kids used to it.
Everyone seems to have their own horror story with the A-word. Even other teachers on campus will reminisce on the days of dancing with the A-word, thankful that it finally ended. In fact, there's aFacebook page dedicated to the hatred of this word. That's when you know that things got real. Even the Urban Dictionary has weighed in on the definition of the A-word and, let me tell you, it isn't very positive. Fame reaches its pinnacle when you get a shirt to make your word go viral. Hooray, math teachers, we should be so proud.
There has certainly been a lot of research done on Math Anxiety, and hopefully there is more that focuses on the correlation between external support and acceptance of math relevance and how much anxiety is actualized. This blog post did a decent job of teasing out some of the issues, mainly:
- On the plus side, the self-confidence and encouragement of parents and teachers can help math-anxious students learn to relax, too. Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, who as a child had "memorized perfect squares for fun," started giving her own children math story-puzzles at bedtime along with their fairy tales. That tradition grew into a blog for friends and then an online community, Bedtime Math, which provides daily math games and puzzles for parents to do with their children.
Ms. Beilock's previous research shows teachers with math anxiety can pass it on to their students--particularly students of the same gender. A teacher's self-confidence in the subject, or lack thereof, can feed into gender stereotypes that young children are already internalizing, she found.