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Generating Enthusiasm in the Math Classroom

Apr 16, 2019 jjamison

Generating Enthusiasm in the Math Classroom

Nina Perreault-Primeau

“Mom, you will not believe what we did in math class today!” Now that’s the kind of response I always hope to inspire in students.

Identifying a problem

As an educator and a math coach, I was always looking for a way to motivate students. How could I help my students see the beauty of math in everyday contexts? I would teach a concept the best way I knew how. But then, as soon as students finished using the concept, they would forget it. Clearly, teaching concepts in silos and having kids work individually wasn’t working.

Planning for change

Then TC² facilitator Laura Gini-Newman arrived to deliver some professional development for our school district. Laura encouraged the teachers and myself (as math coach) to reflect on how students learn, think about, and deeply understand concepts. Laura asked important questions that helped us to reflect on pedagogy generally and our own teaching practices specifically.

We planned lessons together, focusing on student interest. The authentic learning opportunities we created, accompanied by sound critical inquiry questions, were the tools we needed to motivate our students to think critically.

The transformation

When we began putting our new lesson plans into practice, we noticed a transformation. Students became engaged and motivated to problem solve. Because the lessons required students to manipulate concepts, students began to flex their spatial- and proportional-reasoning muscles. Furthermore, as they began to collaborate together to investigate key ideas, they turned to their partners—not the teacher—for answers, thereby developing autonomy and an eagerness to learn. As students’ reliance on the teachers and coaches diminished, we gained class time to develop “next steps.”

Eager teachers; Motivated students

The teachers I work with are now eager to take part in critical inquiry learning sessions—we earnestly discuss how students learn and excitedly share our stories of students seeing the relevance of math concepts in real world contexts.

The best feeling, however, was more personal. My grade nine applied teenage son took part in a math critical inquiry. There couldn’t be a better feeling than what I felt the day he came home and happily said, “Mom, you will not believe what we did in math class today!”

Nina Perreault-Primeau
Conseillère pédagogique en numératie
Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord,
North Bay, Ontario

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