Math in Focus – Change of Focus
by Sara Kunkel, Hope Lutheran Middle School Math and Faith Teacher
I love teaching math to our middle school students at Hope! We use the curriculum Math in Focus (Singapore Math). I appreciate this curriculum because it is both advanced and deep in content. Because math can be challenging for some students, those students begin to believe that they will never succeed in math. With this “focus”, they feel they have a huge wall in front of them when the content is presented. They simply shut down because they don’t believe they are capable.
My passion is to help change their focus! This is why I decided to teach math in the first place. I have found that attitude is a huge component in learning math. When a student believes that they can do it, they can. I have a sign right over my door that says “Say No to Can’t”. Students are not allowed to use the word “can’t” in my classroom. I tell my students that it isn’t true that they can’t do the math; they just haven’t learned it yet. At the beginning of this school year, I actually had one class repeat with me every day, “I am learning, I can do it.”
Every day, I look for ways to help change the “focus” of my students. At the beginning of the year, I have them take a “Math Attitude” evaluation so that I have a firm grasp of each student’s perspective on math. Throughout the year, I bring in fun ways to view the math like parentheses are “force fields” protecting the math inside. I also have them make up funny word problems and we take “commercial breaks” throughout the lesson to bring focus back. As a parent, here are some ideas for how to help your child have a positive focus about math:
- If you personally don’t like math or don’t feel that you are good at math, it would be helpful if you didn’t share that with them. Your attitude towards math will impact them more than anything else.
- Encourage your child as they are doing homework and show that you are proud of their efforts.
- Make sure your child has their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts memorized so that this is not a roadblock for them.
- Encourage them to look at their math textbook or math journal when they get stuck on a homework problem as they should have an example to refer to.
- Try not to get frustrated with them when they are struggling. Encourage them to talk to their teacher with questions.
- Look for math in the real world so that they can see that math is all around them.
Together, we can help your child to both learn and enjoy math. Math is fun…with the right focus.