To begin the year of math instruction, most of the junior division teachers in my school decided to try Jo Boaler’s “Week of Inspirational Math” on YouCubed. Jo Boaler is one of the leading researchers in mathematics education and focuses largely on developing mathematical mindsets. On the website www.youcubed.org, there are many high quality resources for teachers and parents based off her research. I am quite familiar with some of the resources, having explored it during staff professional development days. I was quite excited to get into the classroom and try it out for myself.
The Week of Inspirational Math, actually expanded to three weeks, provides student videos and lesson plans that include rich, open ended math tasks. They are described as low floor, high ceiling tasks, meaning that they have many access points for all levels of learners and allow for multiple solutions and higher level thinking. The tasks, sorted by grade level, touch upon different strands of math as the days progress. Each lesson is accommodated by a video for students, usually of Jo Boaler herself, creating and framing mindsets for math.
I loved using this as my programming for the first few weeks of school. First, because it set the tone of positive mathematical mindsets in my classroom. One of the very first activities has students discussing what makes a good problem solving group member. They are invited to discuss what things they might like their classmates to say and do while consolidating math experiences. What a great way to establish classroom norms!
What I really loved about the Week of Inspirational Math was that it acted as a great diagnostic tool for me. By touching upon many strands, offering a large window of access points and relying heavily on math conversations, the program provided me with a great opportunity to get to know my students as mathematicians fairly early in the year.
Jo Boaler’s approach to teaching mathematics is based off of these seven positive classroom norms:
1. Everyone can learn math to the highest levels
2. Mistakes are valuable
3. Questions are really important
4. Math is about creativity and making sense
5. Math is about connections and communication
6. Math class is about learning not performing
7. Depth is more important than speed
The Week of Inspirational Math isn’t the only excellent resource available at YouCubed. I have been spending some time exploring the tasks, videos for students, parent resources and research articles available. YouCubed offers professional development courses both online and in-person. The website also lists a variety of texts and resources for teachers to use in the classroom. If you’re interested in learning more, head over to www.youcubed.org or check out Jo Boaler’s latest book, Mathematical Mindsets.
I am looking forward to continuing to use these resources with my grade 5/6 class in addition to many other wonderful resources out there! As a teacher, I sometimes feel that there is an overwhelming amount of resources, new research and ideas available. It can be quite time consuming to sort through and find what is meaningful to you and your students’ needs. There will never be a “perfect” or “right” way of teaching math, but I thought I’d share with you this resource that has worked well for me!