The Long Game

Tomorrow I’m teaching equations with variables on both sides. My CMA (corps member adviser) has asked me to redo my lesson plan. She is concerned that my current plan limits creativity and devolves math to rote memorization. She’s absolutely right.

I’m having a lot of issues walking the line between wanting to make concepts as easy as possible for my students and letting them develop their own logic and creativity. I have a list of fifty objectives I was asked to make a good faith effort to get through in 19 instructional days (each with 100 minutes of instruction), and it’s immensely tempting to boil down each objective to steps to be memorized and speed through two or three a day.

But, also, my students are all enrichment, meaning that all twenty-five of them are going to be getting Algebra in the fall. And so one of my visions for the class is that, above all else, students will be able to think critically–to work difficult problems out that they haven’t seen before just by knowing how math works. If my students leave me with that ability, they will be in really good shape to succeed in Algebra next year.

My CMA calls this playing the long game. Obviously, achieving mastery on my objectives is important, but if I keep my class challenging (providing the right kind of support, of course), I can teach my students that math is much more than a rote skill. And that, in the long game, is more important.

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