Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 18 2011


The high school has requested that all 8th grade math teachers fill out a recommendation form for each incoming freshman, picking which class they should start in. This is such an excellent idea that I don’t even mind the extra work, since my knowledge of these kids can tell you much more than a test score ever could and placing them properly is crucial.

In yet another instance of more-efficient-ways-to-do-this-than-having-me-hand-write-every-form, I gave each of the kids a blank form and had them fill in their own identification information. Then I described each of their high school choices to them, and let them “suggest” a class for themselves so I can take that into account when I do the actual recommendation.

What amazed me was how many kids placed themselves in the highest level classes. Some even argued with me to try and get into Algebra II without the prerequisite course. A couple of my biggest behavior problems swore up and down that they would act appropriately for advanced classes, since they know they’re at risk of failing other classes and want to double up on credits in math. A girl who left her old school to avoid being retained in 7th grade told me algebra was so easy that I could put her in any class I wanted. (There’s a lovely example of why you should NEVER hold kids back after 3rd grade, unless you’re a charter school trying to improve your statistics… but that’s for another day.) They are so proud of their knowledge and so confident in their abilities this year. It’s a huge change from last year, where I probably ruined math for more than one child, and I’m so happy with how things have turned around.

One Response

  1. Max Miller

    Can you expound on that comment about “ruin”ing math for a child. I was told at a very early stage in my education that math wasn’t for me and that one decree has had life altering effects. I never hated math. I like it and even went on to pass calc and trig classes with “B”s in college. But my education took a very circuitous route to college , so much so that by the time I got to those classes, I was already taken out of seriousness contention for lucrative careers involving math and science. That one teacher’s declaration sent me to remedial math courses that bored me to tears and I had no idea that I could actually do the more advanced math. Ergo, I graduated from high school with no great prospects and kind of ambled haplessly. I’m not bitter but I am seeking my teaching cert now. I plan to teach math in middle school to prevent that from happening to some other Max Miller. What are some of the things you think you’ve done to “ruin” math for someone? What should I be careful not to do? Or did I take the comment to seriously?

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