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Tuesday / May 24

Reflect, Refresh, and Rejuvenate Your Math Classroom by Celebrating Student Progress & Growth

January represents the beginning of a new calendar year; however, it is also the beginning of the second semester of the school year for students. The beginning of the second semester is a great time to “take the pulse” of your students’ mathematical thinking and confidence by engaging your students in self-reflective activities. Allowing students to articulate their beliefs about mathematics and describe their understanding is an excellent strategy to encourage student agency and identity in the math classroom. To commemorate the end of the first semester, consider incorporating some of the activities below to celebrate your students’ progress and growth in mathematics. 

1. Create a math memory book: Allow students to generate a list of topics they’ve learned in math class this year. For each topic, students are to include a representation (pictures, numbers, and/or words) to tell something about the topic. Students can work in pairs, small groups, or individuals to create the math memory books. Allowing time for students to reflect on all of the new things they’ve learned in the first semester of school will help students realize how much they’ve accomplished during the first half of the school year. If you use student-led conferences in your classroom, the math memory book is a great resource to help students prepare for and organize their thoughts in preparation for student-led conferences. Students can add to the memory books each month or quarter until the end of the school year. If students make individual memory books, they can use them as an artifact from the school year and these also make great reference tools for the next school year.  The math memory book is also a great resource for families since the way your students learn math is most likely very different from the way their parents and guardians learned math.

2. Survey students: It’s just as important mid-year as it is at the beginning of the school year to administer a mathematics survey or interest inventory to determine your students’ beliefs about learning mathematics. Math surveys/interest inventories allow students to share their beliefs about learning math.  These types of activities also allow teachers to gather information about students that might not be obvious during class activities or things students aren’t willing or able to share. Administering a mid-year inventory/survey allows teachers to monitor student growth, celebrate student progress, and learn about changes in students’ mathematical attitudes from the beginning of the year. Possible topics/questions to include:

    1. What’s your favorite thing about math class?
    2. I learn best when …
    3. To be good in math you need to … because …
    4. Math is hard when …
    5. Math is easy when …
    6. The best thing about math is …
    7. If I have trouble solving a problem in math, I …
    8. What do you do when you get “stuck”? Do you ask for help? Do you like to work with others to solve the problem?
    9. _____ is difficult for me in math class. 

3. Individual celebrations: In classroom activities, it’s important for teachers to celebrate students by acknowledging students’ growth and efforts in mathematics. Remember to be very specific, such as: acknowledging the use of a specific strategy to solve a problem, demonstrating perseverance, using math vocabulary, showing growth or progress on a specific topic, or using prior learning to make connections to a new topic. However, it’s also important to make time for students to recognize and celebrate their own accomplishments in math.  Encourage your students to follow your lead and use specific activities to describe their own growth. Something as simple as having students complete a journal prompt such as: I used to …, but now I … This prompt asks students to think of a topic, activity, or problem that posed a challenge for them at the beginning of the school year and to reflect on their personal growth in that area and communicate their successes. In keeping with the New Years’ tradition, encourage students to set new goals based on their accomplishments.

In addition to helping students celebrate their progress and growth in mathematics, engaging your students in self-reflective, student-centered activities such as those listed above will provide you with authentic information to share with families as part of your home-school communication system. Incorporating time for students to reflect on their growth and progress in math class will allow your students to feel refreshed as they start the new semester. As teachers, engaging your students in self-reflective activities will allow you to rejuvenate your classroom practices as you pause to celebrate students’ progress and growth. 

Written by

Latrenda Knighten is co-author of the first book in the new Five to Thrive series: Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Math. She is mathematics curriculum content trainer in Baton Rouge, LA. She has been an educator for more than 30 years, is a regular presenter at educational conferences, and is an active member of many professional organizations. She currently serves as the NCSM Southern Region 2 team leader for Louisiana and secretary for the Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc. Latrenda is also a past member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Board of Directors.

Latest comments

  • Thanks, Jane. Engaging my students in reflective activities was always one of my favorite activities during my time in the classroom. Observing students celebrate their growth and progress can be very refreshing. I also found that taking the time to encourage my students to reflect on their practices and growth in mathematics helped me learn additional ways to address their needs.

  • Thank you for a refreshing reminder of the importance of having students be reflective and focus on their strengths to support their growth!

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