Intrinsic Motivation

Week 8 – EDUC454D100 – June 27, 2017

Over the last few weeks, the topic of “intrinsic motivation” has been a topic of conversation… in problem-based learning, project-based learning, and assessment. Therefore, the question(s) of the week are: What motivates you intrinsically? What motivates students to learn? What needs to change? To compliment these questions, I asked students to watch Daniel Pink’s TED Talk The Puzzle of Motivation.

I am often provoked by idea of intrinsic motivation. How does one become intrinsically motivated? In education, I think about assessment and evaluation, loving the subject/content we teach, and pedagogy that is dialogical and collaborative. Assessment and evaluation not only drives how we instruct, but also it manages behaviour. Sometimes grades or marks are used to motivate students “to learn” or to punish students to serve as a “lesson to learn.” I’m not a big fan of motivating (aka. manipulating) students to learn with grades or marks. I am not a fan of the Pavlov dog approach to teaching and learning. Assessment and evaluation should reflect student achievement, progress, and competencies, not as a vehicle for motivation.

I am brought to Alasdair MacIntyre’s (1984) “goods internal to the practice.” I remember reading about this in my Master of Education program and my mind was BLOWN. I had never differentiated motivation as intrinsic or extrinsic. MacIntyre (1984) talks about a practice as being a complex activity that takes time to master or excel at. There are goods internal to the practice and the goods external. MacIntyre says that you can woo someone to the practice, at first, with the goods external and by engaging in the practice over time, the goods internal can be realized. I had to think about when I had first experienced this. At the time, all that I could think of was CURLING. Not to ramble on about curling, but I performed much better when I was focussed on the goods internal (i.e. being better at the game, making my shots) versus the goods external (i.e. winning, prizes, and acknowledgement).

Take a look at these photos of this week’s group facilitation by Happy Hour. Their topic was DEFORESTATION, but we engaged in photography, golf, ratios & proportion, and graphing made fun. I was so wowed by using perspective and proportions to calculate the height of trees (see above). I really enjoyed the learning activities we engaged in during class to heighten my awareness of deforestation. I appreciated how the students brought in their areas of interest or expertise to this group facilitation and I enjoyed the variety of learning opportunities throughout the day. I wonder if these students are motivated by the mark/grade or facilitating/participating in the activity. I hope its the latter. Admittedly, how they are being graded/evaluated on the group facilitation is somewhat vague at best. That was intended. In my mind, I am “grading” them on if they had met expectations or not. Did they embed math, environmental education, and their subject specialty in a group facilitated activity that is engaging, cooperative, and interactive? So far, all of the groups have met expectations.

Chatelech Grad 2017 Speech

Theme: Dream

Good evening.

I am School Trustee Christine Younghusband representing the SD46 Board of Education to give greetings to the Chatelech Secondary School Graduating Class of 2017. Congratulations to everyone sitting in the stands tonight… you’ve made it!!!

It’s been a long (or possibly short) journey for all of you to finally reach the end of your 13-year educational journey in K-12 schools. This is not an easy feat. When you first entered school in kindergarten, most of you didn’t know how to read and some of you didn’t even want to leave home. Now, look at you… times have changed.

Tonight, my message to you is to DREAM. You are embarking on the next step… and you are the one who decides what comes next. What do you want to do? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there? Whatever it is… DREAM BIG.

Anything is possible, if you want it to be. The only barrier is you. Success is not a straight line. In fact, it will be quite messy. There is no perfect, so don’t get disillusioned or disappointed. Enjoy the ride and learn from your experiences.

Take it one step at a time. Believe that everything that you do is aligned to your dream, whether if you know it or not. So, what is your dream? Stay focussed. Before you know it… you’ll be living your dream. And when you realize that you’re living your dream, you will have another one to strive for. This is the beauty of dreams.

Don’t limit yourself. Be prepared to dream big and enjoy the messy journey. On behalf of the SD46 Board of Education, a round of applause and I raise my hands to the Chatelech Secondary School Graduating Class of 2017. Congratulations!!!

Pender Harbour Grad 2017 Speech

Theme: Family

Good afternoon.

I am School Trustee Christine Younghusband and honoured to be here to bring greetings on behalf of the SD46 Board of Education to the Pender Harbour Secondary Elementary School Class of 2017. Trustee Lori Pratt sends her regrets. As many of you know, she is currently in Germany and could not be here today.

Congratulations to you… the Class of 2017. Today marks the end of your K-12 journey with School District 46. You’ve endured many changes in your school and you had the courage to jump in with two feet with flex blocks, STEM, and learning online to make your learning experience at PHSS worthwhile and engaging.

This year, I had the pleasure of working with Student Trustee Maribeth Haines on the Board of Education. It was a joy to work with Maribeth at the board table. She represented the District Student Leadership Team and Student Voice well. Thank you Maribeth for your year of service on the Board. We are very proud of you.

My appreciation for Pender Harbour Secondary is the smallness of your school. Because of this, you had to innovate, create, and take risks. You’ve become leaders within our school district and province. You are also a FAMILY. Everybody knows everybody. You can’t hide. And, this knowing makes you stronger and wiser.

You are an integral part of this learning community that is embedded in a larger community, who supports and loves you. Thank you Pender Harbour Secondary staff, scholarship & bursary contributors, and volunteers who took part in the learning experiences of this graduating class. It took all of you to make this happen.

On behalf of the SD46 Board of Education, we congratulate you, the Graduating Class of 2017, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Thank you!

Inclusive Education

Photo creds to Amie Le Blanc. #thankyou

Week 7 – EDUC454D100 – June 20, 2017

How do you know that you are being inclusive? Yup. Here’s the question of the week. Before writing their reflective journal, I asked students to watch Shelley Moore’s SSHRC-CRSH 3.5 minute video on Transforming Inclusive Education. I love the bowling metaphor and the 7-10 split. Are we teaching to the middle? If so, how do you know?

I am always inspired by my students. This reflection question was brought to me by my students. Some students approached me to let me know that they were a little spooked by some of the outdoor activities. Over the last few weeks, groups were facilitating interdisciplinary learning activities that involved their subject specialty, environmental education, and mathematics (aka. quantitative approaches). I can understand their concerns. Of course, I encouraged the students to come to class, but also encouraged them to let me know if they were experiencing any difficulties or wanted to opt out. It’s my job to differentiate their learning and make adaptations.

That said, the group facilitations have been exceptional in differentiating learning and “taking aim” to accommodate all learners. Even still, some were feeling excluded or intimidated. This was interesting to me. These students made some assumptions about the learning activity because of the nature of the learning activity… and “skipped the class.” Even though Shelley Moore was referencing students with developmental challenges, the truth is, we are all different and we can’t make assumptions of what people can do and cannot do. We could be aiming for the 7th pin but we may not be perfect in getting a “strike” each time we throw. Thus, to ensure that I am creating an inclusive classroom I try my best to aim for the 7th or 10th pin… but I also create a learning environment where students feel safe to express themselves and share their concerns. My job is to respond appropriately.

This week’s group facilitation did an exceptional job with their learning activity. We were GEOCACHING. We divided into new teams, we used a phone app to find 4-stations located in different locations on campus, and we engaged in learning activities that related to each of the student’s subject specialty (e.g. biology, social studies, physical education, and fine arts) and mathematics. The lesson started with how to use the geocaching app (GPS Tour) and how to participate in each activity (i.e. take pictures and downloading into Padlet as evidence of learning). The lesson ended with us gathering and calculating the distance we travelled, giving awards for best performance at each station (e.g. Timbits), and revealing the application of what we had just experienced (aka. The Travelling Salesman Problem). It was really cleaver and I appreciated that each person from this diverse leadership group found space to honour their subject specialty at each station. The activities were equally diverse, collaborative, and informative. Best of all, the facilitation was perfectly timed.

I really enjoy learning from my students and I hope that they appreciate the wonder and joy of learning and sharing what they are interested in with their peers in a collaborative and collegial way. These experiences lent itself very nicely to this week’s reading reflection on problem-based learning (but also for next week’s reading on project based learning). It’s not about freedom. This “perceived freedom” is created by me… the teacher (aka. facilitator of learning). It’s my job to create the learning environment that is conducive to collaboration, set the learning intentions and expectations so that students understand what’s expected of them, and provide guidance before, during, and after the learning activity, if needed. What I learned is, on the one hand, the learning experience is completely “controlled” (well, I would say “orchestrated”) by me, but it’s also my job to GET OUT OF THE WAY so that students can realize their creativity and interests, which enables them to find agency.

Embedding Environmental Education

Week 6 – EDUC454D100 – June 13, 2017

This is a meta question for me… How am I going to embed outdoor education into my practice? This is the nature of EDUC 454. The course is called “Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education.” I love the idea of students taking their learning into their own hands and becoming the experts in the field. This photo above is our third group facilitation. Their learning activity was looking at stormwater at SFU. I learned a tonne about stormwater, urban planning, and design.

This group nicely facilitated the learning activity with background information via direct instruction, challenged groups with experimentation, and organized a field trip to see an example of how SFU handles stormwater on campus. The activity was well prepped and researched. I loved the collaborative learning during class and can imagine the collaborative learning that was required to create and develop this lesson plan. In the photo above, the group members were “measuring” how well each team did with the stormwater challenge. The goal was to design a system that would minimize water flow and maximize filtration given limited resources and budget.

This group facilitation could have taken the entire class… much like the other two group facilitations. The stormwater activity lent itself to many topics and my BIG takeaway was that each teacher in the collaboration could do their “spin” or subject speciality on the issue. One class can talk about the effects of storm water on the ecosystem, another class can discuss urban planning, while another class could discuss politics and policy. Much conversation (aka. learning opportunities) could be derived from what we learned today. Even though this group as well as the two previous groups had to make adaptations to their lesson plan to “make things happen” within the time constraints, all of the groups so far have excelled.

This is how I am embedding environmental education into my practice. Yes, it is part of my course description, but I do not proclaim to be an environmental education subject specialist. I am a secondary mathematics teacher completing my doctorate degree in educational leadership teaching a course in quantitative approaches to environmental education. I am trying to embrace the ideals of BC’s New Curriculum as a sessional instructor with pre-service teachers. I am learning as my students are learning. I am creating space for my students to learn about what they are interested in and share what they have learned with the class that is interdisciplinary.

I am not the expert… my students become the experts… and I facilitate that learning. My students are working at a high level of inquiry and collaboration. I appreciate their willingness to participate, to explore, and to question. I must admit, being a “guide on the side” versus the “sage on the stage” is a pedagogical shift for me. You have to give up full control of your class and intended learning outcomes… and trust that your students can be the lead learners as a cooperative group. I have an idea what the students are planning to do each week, but I don’t have the details, nor do I have much say in the details (except for the loose framework of expectations).

I also appreciate the learning environment that’s being established. For example, I picked a “crappy” article (and possibly more to come) for this week (and last week) and it was clear based on student feedback that it was a crappy article for many reasons. My intentions was to find an article that connected environmental education with social emotional learning, but it was all-in-all, a crappy article. There was much concern amongst the students (and for me too… I would rather read articles about assessment, curriculum, and leadership… but, that’s not the course). The reading reflection session could have been potentially horrid, but the students spun the article around and in turn exemplified all three Core Competencies. It was absolutely amazing. Critically thinking… communicating their thoughts and beliefs… and a deep desire to connect with readings that are local and relevant. MESSAGE RECEIVED.


The Pedagogical Rut

Week 5 – EDUC 454 D100 – June 6, 2017

The question of the week was: “How would you embed environmental education into your practice to enhance the student learning experience?” We had just finished readings on the experiential learning cycle and outdoor education – missed opportunity and I wondered how students would embed environmental education into their teaching practice, particularly when my students are pre-service secondary teachers in the fields of social studies, English, fine arts, science, and physical education. I also wanted to take our reflection further with a supplementary question: “How would you overcome a pedagogical rut?” In light of reflection in teaching and the experiential learning cycle and working in isolation from other teachers in schools, how would one overcome a pedagogical rut and how would one know if they were in one or not?

The last article we read regarding outdoor education – a missed opportunity, I was left feeling a little but bummed. I often look to articles/research for some enlightenment or inspiration and this one left me feeling flat. It was brought to my attention by a student in my class that it was not a “negative” article, but one that informs us. Agreed. The article/research found that there was very little difference between teaching indoors from teaching outdoors. What occurred to me was the teacher wasn’t teaching any differently. I guess this is informative. From out class discussion, the students felt that maybe if teachers were provided more professional development on play-based learning that the outcome would have been different. Furthermore, some students brought up the notion of not having the resources to adequately engage in play-based outdoor education while others mentioned that they were “not allowed” to take the risks of implementing outdoor education or outdoor activities at their schools. Another student mentioned that maybe the word “risk” is taken out of context such that teachers are unwilling to take risks, whereas another student mentioned that teachers are not positively perceived by the public such that there was a lack of trust. Wow. It was a rich discussion and I wonder about what teachers can do to embrace outdoor/environmental education into their practice regardless of what grade level or subject area they teach.

I was struck by the idea of being in a pedagogical rut and how do you know you are and how do you get out of it. Agreed, it would be a detriment to the teacher to engage in outdoor/environmental education if they are not supported by their school administration, thus oppositional to the district’s strategic plan, policies, and regulations. However, if one can make an argument as to why it is beneficial to student learning, then it’s tough to dispute. Another point to make is, it is tough to teach play-based learning if you have never engaged in play-based learning as a learner. There is something to be said about teaching something that you have no knowledge about. It is extremely challenging. Thus, I have a core belief that one must engage in “something” as a learner in order to teach that “something” to someone else. This is a oversimplification of what I intend, but I suspect that this was one of the problems of what was found in the outdoor education – a missed opportunity article. This thinking lends to my second thought of the PEDAGOGICAL RUT. Whether if you teach something inside or outside without changing your pedagogy, then it would be expected that the learning experience for students would not be any different.

Although my students may not have experienced a pedagogical rut because they are “new-to-be-teachers,” I am confident that they have witnessed at least once a teacher who was well entrenched in a pedagogical rut as a learner. If teachers are not reflective practitioners, or at least take the time to look at their practice in a critical way, then how can they realize that they are in a pedagogical rut. I mean, if it’s “working,” then why would one change? Furthermore, teaching occurs in the closed confines of a classroom (well, most of them), which is physically separate from other teachers. Do teachers give other teachers feedback on their teaching practice? Do teachers talk about their practice in a constructive way with the intention of seeking input and improving practice? Furthermore, do teachers have a “critical friend” who is wholeheartedly willing to provide feedback on the “concrete experience” to their colleagues to supplement the colleagues’ “reflective observation” so that they can engage in “abstract conceptualization” and embark on “active experimentation”?

I am skeptical. There is so much happening in a teacher’s day that taking a moment to reflect on their practice and in the company of other teachers would be a rare occurrence. I had many moments of reflection, but never in the way of my pedagogy and seeking help from others as “critical friends.” Personally, I just got frustrated or complacent. Both places are not ideal for the reflective practitioner. The opportunity to reflect, connect, and experiment needs to be embedded in system’s structure but also it’s culture. I’m not sure if this is happening. I know, as least for me, I am trying to create that for my students in my EDUC 454 class. It’s risk-taking, for sure. It’s also a way for me to PLAY or engage in active experimentation so that I can learn more about my practice and pedagogy. I am so grateful that my students (aka. student teachers) are helping me learn more about environmental education, the role of numeracy across the curriculum, and inquiry based learning. It is absolutely FUN.

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the best part of teaching is the learning. Look at these photos below. My students are teaching and learning in cooperative groups. This was our second group facilitation. They taught the class about FRACTALS in nature. They started the class teaching us about fractals and the different types. They took us outside to look for fractals in nature. Then, used technology to gather data (aka. the photos we took of fractals in nature) and share them together online via Padlet. We concluded the learning experience with creating our own fractals on paper, deriving  the formula of the fractal to the n-th power, and connecting fractals to art in class. They integrated environmental education, mathematics, and their subject specialty into this co-created and co-facilitated learning activity as teachers and as learners. I was so engaged. My mind was blown AGAIN… learning something new. Did you know that the perimeter of a 2-dimensional fractal is infinite while it’s area is finite? Similarly, did you know that the surface area of a 3-dimensional fractal is infinite while it’s volume remains finite? It was a great day and I learned a tonne.

To answer my questions above… reflect, revise, and experiment. KEEP LEARNING.


IGNITE 35 – Mixtape

“We are in the business of learning. We should be talking about learning all of the time.”

Yes. This is the line that I totally gapped on during my IGNITE 35 presentation on May 31st. I looked at the slide and thought… “Share your learning” as the written prompt on my PowerPoint slide but could not for the life of me retrieve this concept. WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF LEARNING. I believe that we should all be talking about learning… about student learning, professional learning, and learning in general. There. I blogged it.

Thank you IGNITE 35 organizers and volunteers for making the night so wonderful. Loved the new venue. So local, intimate, and quaint. It’s very much unlike a pub and I appreciated all those who had presented that night. As many of you know (in SD35), I always love visiting your school district and embedding myself (as much as I can) into your professional learning opportunities. I could not resist applying this year (even though I presented at the first IGNITE 35) because I loved the theme: MIXTAPE. It was challenging. What song best represented my educational practice? Good one. My educational practice has evolved over time and to find an element that has stayed tried and true is my love for professional learning. I am an avid consumer of professional learning, I love being a contributor to professional learning, and my dissertation is all about professional learning. How do we share this learning?

What I find curious about professional learning is what do we do with what we’ve learned. I wonder about the staying power of professional learning and how we as educators use it to benefit student learning. My friend and I always talk about education change, making the most impact, and leadership (you know, the light topics in education). We wonder about what matters, where does it happen, and how do we get there. It’s the HEART OF EDUCATION. Anyway, we are all in some way contribute to education and student learning but I often wonder about leveraging change. We talk about change. We participate in professional learning. But… is change really happening? This thinking was the underpinning of my IGNITE 35 presentation.

The song I chose was SING by Ed Sheeran. Thank you to all those who were tweeting that night. I conveniently stole this photo… and, I am also grateful for you tweeting the other two key messages aside from “we’re in the business of learning.” First, “don’t be a closet learner.” Second, “when you learn something, pay it forward.” It’s so easy to forget what you have learned if you don’t bring it to your practice. I’ll admit it… I’ve been inspired many times at conferences and workshops thinking “hey, that’s an awesome idea”… and that’s it. An idea. Then I forget about it and move back into the routine of my practice. My message for IGNITE 35 was… SHARE YOUR LEARNING. It could be an IGNITE presentation, a blog, a tweet, a face-to-face convo with colleagues or with your students. Do something with what you have learned. Create change. This is a challenge for all those in the education. What’s the point of learning if you’re not going to use it, share it, and celebrate it? I encourage you to SING. Sing loud.

Building Math Confidence

Week 4 – EDUC454 D100 – May 30, 2017

Today’s journal reflection question is: “How can teachers give students the confidence to improve their self-concept in mathematics?” This was one of the questions from last week’s reading on math efficacy and math self-concept. I wanted to return back to this question because my students make me wonder about their math efficacy and self-concept and how that translates into their teaching practice, thus support student learning. I was thinking about last week and how we ended our class with a weaving activity, where math was embedded in the activity. Some students loved the activity while other students not so much. One student said, “Just give me an equation to solve, a chemical equation to balance… I can’t do this.” Ok… maybe not those exact words, but close enough. Our math self-concept is so deeply embedded in our core beliefs. How do we change that in ourselves as teachers so that we can help students to continue to thrive in their mathematics thinking or help students to transform their thinking into I CAN.

As a mathematics educator, I am always trying to get students to understand their strengths and to look at their learning as an opportunity, not as a deficit or weakness. I like to focus on strengths and how we can use our strengths to leverage our learning to bridge gaps where they may exist. It reminds me of Chris Wejr’s TEDxLangleyED talk, “Bring out the best in people: Start with strengths.” With my EDUC454 class, they leave me thinking. I am curious about how they are able to excel in mathematics in the context of their curricular area, but when they “have to do math” as math, their math self-concept is not the same as when they are teaching their passion.

Today, I was reminded how teaching your passion can woo students into learning and understand that math is EVERYWHERE. Use your strength to build confidence. Today was our first group facilitation session. This is where the students become the teacher. Groups of 4 to 5 are tasked with facilitating a learning activity with the class that includes the environment, mathematics, and their curricular area. The “Knights of the Night” used baseball to teach about the land, respect, team work, data collection, statistics, geography, physics, and the core competencies. I was so inspired by the day and have lots of take aways for Math 8 and 9. My big take away from today’s learning activity was to use your strength (i.e. baseball) to woo the student into mathematics (i.e. data collection, data analysis), embedding the core competencies (i.e. critical thinking and communication) to make learning relevant.

I’m not sure if my students realize it or not, but they are absolutely competent in mathematics in the context of their content area. And because of this, they can definitely teach mathematics that is engaging, relevant, and interdisciplinary. I was impressed with what these student teachers composed and what they had learned from each other to co-facilitate this morning’s learning activity. It was super fun and I can definitely see how this 2-hour activity with us could easily transform into a unit plan or an ongoing learning opportunity where different curricular competencies, big ideas, and content can be accomplished with secondary students. This is how we can give students the confidence to improve their self-concept in mathematics… connect it to student prior knowledge, and their strengths and interests. I gasped several times this morning (i.e. mind-blown) about the amount of statistics baseball collects, such that I was curious about how much data the MLB collects. Check this out… It’s the GLOSSARY OF STATS.


My Quantitative Inquiry Question

EDUC 454 D100 – Week 3 – May 23, 2017

“How do you know when enough is enough?”

My quantitative inquiry project is about cedar bark harvesting. Today I shared my teaching experience and Math 8 Project from about 10 years ago titled “Math Embedded: A Tribute to Susan Point.” I showed a few images of Susan Point’s spindle whorls from the Vancouver Art Gallery and compared them to those made by my students who were demonstrating their understanding of linear and rotational symmetry. I am so proud of the work my students did back then, which inspired me to pursue other interests in the First Peoples, mathematics education, and now… environmental education with EDUC 454 D100. This year I want to learn more about cedar, weaving, cedar bark harvesting, and culturally modified trees.

Within this context… my quantitative inquiry question is “How do you know when enough is enough?” I was curious how the First People new how much bark to take from a tree without harming it, but also to take enough so that they could weave the baskets, clothing, and other items with the bark harvested. I love weaving. I have a small collection of cedar baskets that I brought into class and looking at them makes me even more enamoured by the craft because it took me forever to weave this 9×9 matrix as seen in the photo above. This bark was so beautiful. It was harvested a year ago. This is from the 7th Annual UBC Aboriginal Math K-12 Symposium.

I would like thank Dr. Cynthia Nicol for being so gracious and letting me attend. I presented at the symposium a few years ago presenting “Math Embedded: A Tribute to Susan Point.” This year’s symposium was about CEDAR. How serendipitous was that? I had to go. We learned about reconciliation and mathematics education. I just loved it. We did a timeline activity, then a map activity. These were two exceptional interdisciplinary activities that incorporated First Nations history, geography, mathematics education together. The audience was challenged by the tasks.

The keynote speaker was Alice Guss from the Squamish Nation. I just loved listening to her talk. She was an outstanding storyteller. I loved her take on cedar and appreciated how important cedar was to the Coast Salish. During her talk, she asked the audience if we had any questions. Of course I did… I wanted to ask my inquiry question… and, I did. “How do you know when enough is enough?” She answered, “you don’t. You use two hands. You may get 30-feet, 40-feet, or 50-feet… but the tree decides.” Wow. She modelled the process on the pole beside her on stage. The imagery was powerful, but also the idea that the tree as agency and action. This was the first talk from Dr. Cynthia Nicol about our relationship with the environment.

The final task of the symposium was weaving cedar. I loved the math that was embedded in this activity. We had to complete patterns by shading sheets of graph paper then weave our pattern using cedar. I had never done this before. I have made a cedar bracelet before, but never weaved a pattern like this before. This took collaboration, time, patience, and problem solving to get this done. And yes, I even asked the keynote for some help on how to twine my pattern together. I just loved the experience and had to share this with my EDUC 454 class. If you see below, they were just as engaged as I was, but they had to unfortunately weave with bristol board instead. That said, I believe the math experience was similar for may students.

I appreciated the class participation. I still wrestling with their math efficacy and how they can build student math efficacy, even though they do not intend to become secondary mathematics teachers. We had a great discussion today about math efficacy and I wonder how we can shake our habits so that we can shift the mindset about mathematics for the next generation of learners. In this weaving activity, some math anxiety was present… some dexterity frustrations… but overall joy from the learning experience. It was an excellent opportunity to connect with the students.

I look forward to my next learning about cedar. My next adventure is the Sea-to-Sky Gondola. I also look forward to the quantitative projects my students create to demonstrate their learning that is interdisciplinary, which includes environmental education, mathematics education, and their subject speciality. It should be good.



What is Your Math Story?

EDUC 454 D100 – Week 2 – May 16, 2017

After having my first class with EDUC 454, I was struck by their sense of math efficacy as secondary teacher candidates. I get that math can be difficult for some, but I am brought back to my long term curiosity of… “What’s your math story?” Everyone has one. Most of them are not so positive, so I wonder about what made the learning experience so challenging or difficult. If I continue with my research, this is something I would love to investigate further. Was it the pedagogy? the teacher’s understanding? the relationship? the uncertainty? the difficulty of the subject matter? WHAT IS IT?

Throughout my K-12 experience, I did not find mathematics very difficult. That said, I did not excel at mathematics either. I was a solid 85% average student… a solid B but not quite an A. I remember opting out of Calculus 12 in Grade 12. Big mistake. Why? I failed Math 100. Not proud of it. I remember having to purchase my professor’s “unpublished math book” as my learning resource and him saying after this long, diluted calculation that “as you can see, the answer is zero.” Disappointing. After all that math, the answer equated to nothing!!! I stopped learning. I blamed the teacher. As a result, my undergraduate experience was an obstacle course because every course I needed or wanted required Math 100 as a prerequisite. On the brighter side, I took Math 100 for the second time and got an A with 92%. Redemption.

However, I don’t think this is my “math story” anymore. There was no question that math was challenging, just like any other subject area. And yes, it posed as a barrier to many of my course selections throughout my undergrad because I wanted to become a Chemistry Major and I was a General Science student for most of my undergraduate years until my fifth year of university. In the meantime, I tutored mathematics at Kwantlen College Adult Basic Education program and decided that I wanted to become a teacher. The extra year was a blessing because I had the time to complete the required prerequisites for teacher education at UBC. Truth. I think that I had an “English Story” rather than a “math story” for most of my life. I always believed that I could not read and write. I hated reading out loud in my Grade 4 class. I hated reading out loud on the first day of teacher education orientation at UBC.

Anyway, back to my math story. I think that my math story shifted when I became a secondary mathematics teacher. I was always curious about how students became so disinterested in mathematics as they moved from Grade 8 to 12. This is not to say that all students arrive to high school with wide eyes and a love for mathematics, but I know ratio wise that not all Grade 8 students will take Math 12. My math story as a secondary mathematics teacher was solidified when I first taught Essentials Math 11. In previous years, I was the Math 11, Math 12, Calculus 12, and Enriched Math 8 teacher. That year, my teaching assignment switched. It was an eye opener. It took almost a month within a semester to establish a relationship with these students to find out that most of them should not be enrolled in the course. Most of these students were math-able. Why were these students here in Essentials Math?

Essentials Math, at the time, was the low level math pathway in BC education. Every student needed a math 11 credit to graduate from high school. Most of these students “chose” to be in Math Essentials 11 after three years of high school math. Because I was curious, I asked each student who they had as a mathematics teacher in Grades 8 to 10. Most of the students who I perceived to be math-able had teachers who were not mathematics subject specialists. What did this mean? Not really sure, but this informal finding was eye-opening. To make a super long story really, really short… I delved into this problem with my dissertation and focused on the professional learning experiences of non-mathematics subject specialist teachers and their acquisition of the subject matter as practicing secondary mathematics teachers in BC schools. This was a 9-year journey after 16 years of teaching secondary mathematics. I am satisfied with my results and hope to defend soon.

Now, my mind has drifted onto another math story. It just happened during our second class of EDUC 454. This math story is an extension from my research and the math-story-phenomenon. Because my students had expressed a mild dislike for mathematics in my Q-course, I wanted to explore this further with an outdoor activity. Students were asked to go out in groups of 4 or 5 and take photos of “the environment” and describe “what math do you see?” They also had to embed their understanding of their subject speciality into their findings and present what they had found to the class. Their findings could be presented to the class as an inquiry question that incorporated the environment, mathematics, and their subject speciality. One group after the other… they had wowed me. Great questions. I loved the different photos they took around campus. I was completely engaged.

These students exceeded my expectations (again). Here’s a group of teacher candidates with a perceived math efficacy of “mediocre at best” and they excelled in this group activity… incorporating mathematics, the environment, and their subject speciality to develop quantitative inquiry questions. How does this happen? Once again, I am more curious about teaching, learning, and mathematics education.