Teacher Reflection 180: Day 6

When I walk into math class I feel like a(n) _______________.  fill in the blank with a type of animal

Explain why you feel like this animal.  What are some of your shared traits?

What animal do you think would be best for math class?

Explain why you think that.

I really enjoyed this reflection because it allowed students to talk to me about how they feel about math.  It provided them a way to express their feelings that felt safe and fun, but allowed them to be more specific about their feelings beyond “I hate Math” or “Math is boring.”  It also gave me information on what they feel is important in math, sometimes what they feel important in math is very far from the truth and typically I find that many students do not think they can achieve it.

Animals listed as current students:

  • Cat: Tries to cozy up to others to get help
  • Turtle: Slow and steady at math
  • Owl: Math comes easy
  • Hawk: Mind flies away on other things that interest him, usually many times during the class
  • Sloth: Slow, sluggish
  • Bear: Feels annoyed by others and wants to physically interact with them
  • Deer: Headlights?
  • Snail: Slow and small
  • Squirrel: Did someone say Nut?
  • Elephant: Feels huge in class, smart but not fast
  • Mouse: Small, quiet, unobserved
  • Gazelle: Quick, but not always going in the right direction

Many of my students feel slow and sluggish at math.  I usually find that their attitude towards math is because of their limited experiences in it.  They have many gaps, assume that the only goal is an answer, and don’t believe they need to explain their thinking at all.  Writing a sentence is out of the question- this isn’t language arts!

Right now I am working on transform that thinking.  It is a slow process, and right now students are a little frustrated that I am making them think instead of supplying them with answers.  They are surprised at what they can accomplish however, so they are really starting to get into the tasks I am assigning.  They are also a bit intrigued by the reflections I do in class.  They do not understand why I don’t ask for names on the papers (although I know by their writing who it is), and it seems to instil a confidence that they can be more honest and open in their writing than if there was one to be accountable for.

Animals listed as good math aspects:

  • Cheetah: Quick with precision
  • Horse: Swift and beautiful
  • Bear: Powerful, finds intelligent ways to overcome obstacles
  • Tiger: Quick and agile
  • Owl: Smart
  • Turtle: Slow and steady wins the race
  • Eagle: Sharp, quick reactions, fast processes
  • Hawk: Sharp, quick reactions, fast processes
  • Bunny: Cute and cuddly, but fast
  • Cougar: Quick for small bursts needed to solve problems
  • Wolf: Cunning
  • Lion: King of Math
  • Monkey: Playfully smart

Many students seem to think FAST is the main component to successful math.  I wonder where this comes from?  Many Students do want to be intelligent, they perceive that it will help to find ways to work through problems and get answers, although they don’t feel there is a need for any other attribute than speed.  I will try to be the way of the turtle, going slow and steady with them, showing them that working through a problem with understanding will allow them to be successful in math.  I am not putting grades on papers- I am noting what is wrong and asking students to examine their work to find their mistake.  This group is starting to slowly come around to that mindset.  It is early, and we will get there- we will all be successful turtles.


Teacher Reflection 180: Day 5

What did students think the objective of the day was?

Did they understand it?  To what degree?  Does it need more Reflection, Instruction, Practice?

Can students connect today’s lesson to a problem they might encounter?


Students have really nailed down Objectives of the Day, we all are really enjoying it and I will continue this every class.


I think I need to keep refreshing the memory and build connections between daily lessons, weekly work, and mathematical themes.  Students are too quick to forget things unless they interact with it.  Although right now at the beginning of the year students are “retraining” their brains for school, I am really impressed by their progress so far.


Connections are still a challenge.  They can adjust examples from class but are still working on the understanding needed to extend their thinking and adapt it for new situations.  I need to focus on this a bit more.

Teacher Reflection 180: Day 4

What did I learn about my Math Class this week?

What did my students struggle with this week?

What did I do well  this week?

Where do I need to begin with this class next week?


Every class presents a new challenge for the year.  This year I did not know what to expect coming to a new district.  I found the kids to be much better than I anticipated, they are needy but they are willing to work with this strange new teacher on math that appears to be easier than what they expected.  I am still learning the internal pecking order of the kids, who to watch out for with peers, or with me.  I am starting to formulate a seating chart- students are showing me who they can and can’t sit by and productively work.


My students struggled with the transition to school after the summer.  They are re-learning to filter subjects and words in class, and are adapting to being shut inside for a good chunk of the day.  For class the biggest thing is attention spans- although I am pretty crazy the first weeks to grab that and maintain it (while also showing them it’s OK to have wrong answers or reactions- as long as you can appropriately correct them), they are still drifting.  I have a few plans to get that back on track.


My students really are loving the format of class.  Estimation 180 is going well, same with Visual Patterns and Mathshell Tasks.  I am liking the flow and student interaction and am feeling less drained at the end of the day than normal.


Next week I need to refresh classroom procedures and enforce them.. and keep enforcing them.  It’s better to start off hard and give them some slack than to go too easy.  You can never regain ground.

Teacher Reflection 180: Day 3

For this day, I am only posting what questions you should ask of yourself from Day 3 reflections…


How well did you present expectations to students about group work and the roles involved?

What roles could cause potential problems between students?

Are students productively using roles to become successful learners?

Teacher Reflection 180: Day 1

After writing my first two reflections for Students to fill out, I realized that how I reflect on them is just as important as me allowing Students to reflect on their work.  My goal is to try and write down questions for observations or thoughts I have when I read through students exit tickets.



Teacher Reflection Day 1:

From student responses, what skills do I need to address whole group?  Which ones are addressed small groups?  Individual?

What problem types do they think they understand, but really don’t?

What problems should I put on future assessments to ensure they have problems they feel safe with?



My new students this year have answered the first two questions in a typical fashion to all of my other years.  Basic adding and multiplying (sometimes subtracting) seems to be the limit of the comfort zone for my students.  This is very sad since I teach 7-12th grade this year.  I realize some students may be “playing the game”, but the fact that these are semi-private journal questions where they don’t’ have to hide or hold back concerns me.

You really have to love it when you get responses like this….

5 times 5 is addition

I am going to visit with this student, either his writing is too sloppy and he meant that as an addition sign, or he considers multiplication repeated addition- which could lead to some complications when he starts larger computations.

The following seems to be the general consensus for my classes, and has been for a few years:

General Class response

Typically when students answer graphs, they are talking about bar, pictographs or circle graphs.  Fractions and Division are still large headaches for my students.  Addition always seems to be the go-to for any “easy” math problem.

Just when you think you have your classes figured out, you get responses like this:

Calculator response

Geometry response


Algebra and Geometry are strengths?  Using your head instead of a calculator?  WOOT!  But the division and word problems keep creeping in the background.  Timesing with big numbers I am not sure about.  I will have to get back to that student to see what context they are referring to.

The response that really made my day (and ruined it) was this one:

Favorite Math Problem

I love that a favorite problem is actually working with a variable.  The student has the correct answer above, but then proceeds to make a small error with the algorithm they know for solving equations.  Was one done mentally?  What does the student know about the process?  I am unsure what direction this conference will go.


For now, I know that other than basic skills, students still do not have a lot of math confidence, which is typical.  They also do not like fractions and division, also typical.  This year I will have to make sure to get them exposed to some different approaches to these subjects so they can build the information and confidence they need to be successful.