Math Rockstars: Confidence and Skill in Math by Sara Kunkel, Hope Middle School math teacher

I love teaching Math. I love watching a student who hasn’t liked Math before become a “Math ROCKSTAR!” It happens every year. Everyone likes something more when they feel successful doing it. Math is no different than many skills in life. The difference is that math has sometimes had a “bad rap” in the past.

Some of the parents I talk with tell me stories of their own parents or teachers telling them that they would never be good at math. Some of these same parents have learned that the best thing they can do for their child’s math journey is to make sure to NOT share these stories. Kids need to hear from their parents that they believe they are capable of doing hard things, that there is help for them if they don’t understand and to feel celebrated when they follow through with their learning. The more confidence I see in students, the better they get at learning the math in class.

Our math curriculum at Hope, Math in Focus, is rigorous and challenging. Students not only learn basic math skills, they are challenged to apply the skills to complicated and in-depth problems. When they respond to the challenge with a willingness to keep fighting forward, these same students find that they can do the math.  And once they realize this a few times, they are off and running. They become “Math ROCKSTARS.”

This year, I have had the honor of teaching ALL middle school math. This means that I have two levels of math in my classroom at a time (regular and advanced math) for each grade. By teaching all of the levels of math, I am able to monitor every student’s progress and continue to have my hands in their learning. To accommodate for this change, I have created what is called an “In-Class Flipped Classroom.”  I record the lesson for one of the levels, post the video lesson so that students can access them using their iPads, and then have them watch the lesson in class. At the same time, I deliver live instruction to the other level of math. Interestingly enough, I am still able to give them all of the tips, content and encouragement that I can give them “live.” Many of the students prefer the videos because they can watch them again later or pause the video to make sure they have all of the notes written in their journals. And parents, you can watch the videos to reinforce what we are learning in class when you work on homework with your child. The “In-Class Flipped Classroom” is math magic.

I want you all to know that it is an honor to bring confidence and skill to our students at Hope. Not only are they successful while they are here within Hope’s walls, they launch into High School fully prepared for math that they will see in the future. Many of our students are in Honors courses or completely skip a level of math in High School.

Keep encouraging your children to fight for understanding in math. The more successful they feel, the better they will do.  And this will give them all of the skills they need to be successful in math for years to come!