How to Teach Adults Math

by ralph and jenny | Flickr.com | CC BY

Today is my first day of teaching Developmental Math. I picked up two classes in the “late start session” at Lone Star College.(Yup – in Texas. How’d’y’guess?)

And I’m so excited about teaching again!

But how do I do it?

A year ago the answer to that question would have been, “Duh!” Having taught for so many years I’ve gotten the art of explaining math on the chalkboard (and later whiteboard) down to a science. I’m good. Real good.

But this past year, writing on MathFour.com, has changed things. I’ve connected with wonderful moms, dads, teachers of math and teachers of… well… just about everything. My philosophy on teaching math has been shattered.

In the past, I’ve taught content. We’ll do the slope-intercept formula, talk about graphing and test over things like “Section 1.3 to 2.5.”

But I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to teach. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything to “teach” at all.

I have to remember what they’re up against.

This class is the most “remedial” of the classes offered in the math department. But the “gaps” they have in the math may not have anything to do with ability.

I’m going to forego a syllabus – at least at first. Instead, their first assignment will be to read a research paper on math anxiety.

From there,¬†I’m going to let them guide what we do. We’ll likely get to content, but we’re not doing to push it.

We’re going to get ready for whatever is next.

They aren’t done after this class. In fact, this is the first of at least four math classes they’ll have to take. So whatever we do here lays the foundation for how they handle the other classes.

The next math class they take might be inspirational and based on understanding, exploration and learning. Or it might be another content driven, talk-at-you-while-you-take-notes semester full of processes and methods to arrive at a RIGHT answer.

Either way, I hope that by the end of this semester, they will feel empowered to take on their own learning. To demand learning facilitation instead of teaching. And join the teachers that have been leading the math revolution.

Will I get fired?

I hope not. But it’s possible. There’s no telling what’s fixing to happen.

The only thing I know is that I’ll no longer sacrifice students for the sake of the system again.

What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments or tweet them out…



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