“Math isn’t a right or wrong subject; it’s not just a set of rules,” says Raeesa Shivji (BSc/BEd ’21), an early childhood education specialist who majored in mathematics at the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Education. “Math is the one course a lot of students really dislike because they find it so unrelatable,” she says, “and once they think they’re bad at it, that’s it.”
Shivji seeks to subvert this mindset by instilling a reflective approach to math in the foundational early years. “Many students understand how to do things, but they don’t understand why,” she says.
Reflection allows students to see connections between math and everyday life, notice how numbers inter-relate, and discover multiple ways of problem-solving. “Talking it out helps expand and solidify learning,” she says, and helps develop reasoning skills.
Shivji’s approach was largely inspired by U of L Faculty of Education instructor, Josh Markle, who emphasizes the importance of mindfulness in teaching.
An awareness of awareness is what distinguishes good teachers,” says Math Education instructor Josh Markle. In a ‘math scribbler assignment’ distributed to pre-service math teachers, he states, “We won’t hone only our awareness of mathematical procedures. Most importantly, we’ll pay attention to how mathematics makes us feel.”
In the scribblers, students don’t just work through math problems; they also diagram, doodle, sketch, or record in any other way, their thoughts and feelings about it. Shivji was struck by the open concept, and the freedom to give voice to frustrations, triumphs, ideas, connections, and more. “The simple act of writing it down was huge,” she says. She also recognized the potential for reflection as a powerful assessment tool.
During her Professional Semester III internship with Grade 3 students at Hawkwood School in Calgary, Shivji based her Professional Inquiry Project on ways to embed reflection into the math classroom.
When she modified Markle’s assignment for use as one of her processes, he suggested they co-author an article. “Collaboration is fundamental to the Professional Inquiry Project,” he says, “so it was a natural extension to write about this project together. Raeesa took up our work in class in interesting and inspiring ways. Its publication in a journal reviewed and read by our peers embodies what the PIP is all about.” Their collaborative article "How Do You Feel? Using Scribblers in the Math Classroom to Elicit Mathematical and Personal Connections" is scheduled for fall publication in delta-k, the Math Council journal of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
• Josh Markle is a current PhD student and instructor for the Faculty of Education. His recent publication is "Enactive Hermeneutics as an Interpretive Framework in the Mathematics Classroom" and can be found in the Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal No. 37 (August 2021)
• Teaching Students to Prove Their Mathematical Thinking through Questions, Charts, and Discourse
• Rich Classroom Discussions in Math
• Number Talk Session 1
• “My Favourite No”: A Teacher’s Warm Up Routine
• Asking Effective Questions: Provoking Student Thinking/deepening Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom
Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan
Photo Courtesy: Raeesa Shivji
Related story links to the Faculty of Education Professional Inquiry Project, undergraduate student research:
• The Faculty of Education Professional Inquiry Project Symposium
• Wigham Family Professional Inquiry Project Award
• Incorporating Blackfoot Values into Early Education: Kate Lawless (BA/BEd ’21)
• Tackling Racial Underrepresentation in Majority White Schools: Deema Abushaban (BSc/BEd ’21)
For more information please contact:
Communications, Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
Learn more about the Faculty of Education: Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)
Portfolio of stories (2019 to present)
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu Website: uleth.ca/education
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