March 19, 2019

My 8-Week Challenge - Part 3


This is the third and final post in a series about my Spring 2019 early 8-Week classes.  I teach at a large local community college and two of the classes I am teaching this semester are 8-Week arithmetic classes for adult learners.  In my previous posts, I shared the responses many of my students gave about their mathematical background.  The common theme among their responses was a feeling that they had "struggled" with math most of their life. 

We have now reached the end of our 8-Week semester.  I am pleased with the progress many of my students have made in their mathematical journey.  We
have explored arithmetic topics in many non-traditional ways and with several hands-on lessons.  Next week, my students will be transitioning to a developmental algebra class.  It will be a challenge for them, but they now have a strong foundation in arithmetic.

I am the author of the curriculum we use in the arithmetic class.  It is a work-text that is very non-traditional, with lots of hands-on activities to help demonstrate the concepts of fractions, decimals, and integers.  The lessons incorporate many mathematical “manipulatives”, including Fraction Tiles, Fraction Circles, Base-Ten pieces, and two-color counters.  We have also used paper folding, graphing on number lines, and shading decimal grids in several of the lessons.

As with previous semesters, the biggest change for most of my students has been with their attitude toward mathematics.  Most of them were scared and intimidated to enter the classroom at the beginning of the semester.  By the mid-way point, many of them had expressed that this was their favorite class and they appreciated the fact that I was helping them “understand” math for the first time in their lives.  This is WHY I teach.  I LOVE being able to help students overcome their previous math fears and struggles.

The students completed an anonymous end-of-semester survey about the arithmetic class.  I would like to share their responses to a couple of the questions, one asked about the manipulatives we used and the other about their feelings regarding the class.  Each class had 10 students that turned in survey results, for a total of 20 responses.

Question #1: “Please check 2 or more of your favorite hands-on “manipulatives” from this class.”  The choices of the 20 students that responded are as follows:
14 selected Fraction Tiles
13 selected Base-Ten Pieces
10 selected Fraction Circles
9 selected Two-Color Counters
9 selected Decimal Grids
8 selected Paper Folding Activity

Question #2: “Please check the response that best describes your feelings regarding this class.”  The choices of the 20 students that responded are as follows:
13 selected “I loved this class”
5 selected “I liked this class a lot”
2 selected “I thought this class was okay”
0 selected “I am neutral about this class”
0 selected “I didn’t like this class”

(Illustrations created by Sarah Pecorino Illustration)

Reading their responses to the second question gives me a GREAT sense of pride.  Having so many of them select “I loved this class” makes me very happy because eight weeks ago, most of these students didn’t like math.

We have accomplished a lot of mathematical growth and development in our 8-Week journey.  I wish my students the best as they move forward with their mathematical curriculum!

Happy teaching,
Janet Mitchell


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