How Inspirational Teachers Can Change Students' View of Math

by HealthforLife

We've all had many teachers & mentors-some good, some not so much. There's always that one teacher that really shaped you and inspired you to learn...was it on the subject of math?

A Guide to Changing Frustration to Motivation for Math Students

Many of us have had inspirational teachers.  They made us excited about learning, even in aspects of the subject that we didn't generally enjoy.  Their enthusiasm and teaching methods made all the difference for keeping us motivated and helping us learn at our maximum potential throughout the class.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, many of us have also had teachers who did not inspire us.  Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint what turns you off from their teaching.  It may not have to do with their teaching methods but with their general attitude toward the students.  Whatever the issue at hand may be, it is fair to say that we have all been there with both the inspirational math teachers and the uninspiring teachers at some point in our lives.

The Teacher's Perspective: How Do You Get There?
Teaching methods are important but inspiration is often intrinsic.  According to Gary McGuey and Lonnie Moore, inspirational teachers build their classroom mission and personal mission statements on the following principles: modeling, respecting, listening, and relationship building. The most inspirational math teachers do not eliminate problems of frustration and confusion in the classroom by focusing solely on one characteristic.  They must continually focus on all four of these characteristics.  As you build your mission statements around these ideas, considering the following as well.

Passion for the Subject Matter

Showing a passion for the subject at hand will keep student motivation and enthusiasm high.  Even when students get frustrated or confused, there is a much higher chance that they will seek help if they are motivated.  While you may not love every aspect of math, finding something to enjoy about every lesson you teach will make a huge difference for your students.

Passion for the Students
Students can detect whether teachers enjoy their students or not very quickly.  Find something to love about every student in your class and show students that you will go the extra mile for them.  They will see your motivation and passion for teaching come through as you approach problematic situations with the intent to do whatever it takes to work through them.

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

Create a Non-Threatening Environment

According to Emma McDonald, one of the key aspects of creating a positive classroom environment is making it non-threatening. Students will not be successful learners unless they are comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts with the teacher and other students without worry of judgment or ridicule.  Students must also feel comfortable making mistakes.

Open Communication with Students
This includes taking time for class discussion about potential problems as well as time before and/or after school that students can approach you.  Not all students want to talk about issues that they're having in front of all of their classmates but will seek help in a 1:1 setting.
Open Communication with Parents.  Inspirational math teachers can play an important role in initiating or being open to communication with parents.  Give parents your contact information and be flexible with arranging phone calls and meetings, including parent/teacher meetings and parent/teacher/student meetings.  There is no single solution that will work for every family.

Parents Are Important, Too!

 Even the most inspirational math teachers cannot do the job on their own.  Students need support from home as well.  As a parent, it can be tough to judge what is or isn't going well with your child's math class, as you aren't in the class with your child every day.  Even when you know that your child is frustrated or upset about math on a regular basis, you don't always know the reasoning behind it.  Here are a few ways that you may be able to tackle the problem.

  • Ask to Observe for a Day.  Get permission instead of showing up unannounced.  Many teachers are more than happy to allow this.
  • Talk to Your Child.  If you aren't getting a good read from daily discussions about school, sit down for a more serious talk.  This can be tough if students are at a point where they're already very frustrated with a teacher and/or the subject matter at hand.  Don't force the discussion.  Allow time for children to vent their frustration before diving into the issue more deeply.
  • Talk to your Child's Teacher.  This may be in relation to your observation and/or discussion with your child.  Even the most well intentioned teachers aren't always aware of problems in their classrooms, especially with students who are typically shy or soft spoken.  Creating awareness is often the first step to reaching the root of the problem.  If the teacher is already aware of the problem, having a discussion may shed some insight for both parties.

Updated: 06/01/2012, HealthforLife
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Consider This: How Did your Teachers Shape your Views of Math (or any other Subject)? How Does this Still Affect you Today?

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HealthforLife on 04/02/2012

That is great TerriRexson. Did your teachers methods spark an interest in you for Mathematics or were you already interested and they encouraged you?

TerriRexson on 03/31/2012

I had two particular maths teachers that really stood out, one at middle school and one at high school. I went on to study maths at university. It's quite possible that I would have picked a different subject if I'd had different teachers.

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