What are math norms?
Math norms are an agreement that everyone in the math classroom community agrees to follow. Norms in math are short, easy to remember statements that clearly express the expectations for the math classroom. These clear expectations help students know what to expect and help them hold themselves accountable. In addition, it helps you build a safe and supportive classroom community.
Why use math norms?
Math Norms help create a positive math classroom community. Norms in math create a clear, consistent and positive expectations for students. This allows students to know exactly what is expected of them and their peers in math class.
In math, we all must actively work to create a growth mindset to change any negative thinking from past experience. Many students (and teachers) enter math class uncomfortable with math. By using math norms we can help students feel safe to take risks and ask for help.
How can I start using math norms?
Decide which norms are appropriate for your classroom. Consider what behaviors or thoughts students are currently demonstrating that you would like to change. You might also consider the Math Vision you have for your classroom. What do you want for your math classroom and how can you write short, positive, student friendly statements to achieve that vision?
Once you have an idea of 7-10 norms you would like for your math classroom, you’re ready to start a conversation with your students.
Start with, “What do you want this math class to be?
What do you want it to look like, sounds like, feel like?”
In small groups or partnerships, ask students to work together to create a list. Then, have each group share their ideas with the whole class. Once you have compiled all the ideas, ask students to notice similarities. Then collapse those similarities into agreements or “math norms” based on their desires for math class. The age of your students will determine how much you will need to lead this conversation with prompts vs. letting the students work collaboratively to create.
Finally, ask students to submit their suggestions for math norms. Review the suggested norms and then present the final list to students.
Most likely, they thought of the 7-10 norms you were hoping for! If not, guide the conversation by suggesting or saying, “I hear you want people to take turns talking and be nice when in groups. I wonder if we could call that ‘collaborate’. Have you heard of that word?”
Including students in the process of norm creation allows students to have investment. With investment there is more cooperation and your norms will be more successful.
Using math norms for classroom management
Math norms will improve your classroom management. As you are forming your norms consider what behaviors you’d like to change. Such as, calling out or students being off task. Then, form norms that will address these problematic behaviors. Most likely, students don’t like those things either.
For example, “Tackle challenges without giving up.” is a great math norm to address students who get off task when the work gets challenging. OR “Ask for help. Questions are valuable.” to address the students who are confused but don’t ask for help and then get off task.
Using math norms for reflection and goal setting.
My favorite way to use Math Norms is to help develop my students’ growth mindset through goal setting and reflection. This comes after we have created and agreed on our set of norms. My goal is to keep the norms alive, I don’t want them to just turn into a wall decoration.
I give daily challenges. “Today I want us all to focus on our norm “Mistakes are proof you’re learning. The work today will be challenging and you WILL make mistakes. When you do, I want you to remember you are learning. Also, keep that moment in mind so you can share it with us at the end of class.”
Then, I’ll watch for students that make mistakes, take risks, and form new connections and learn new things. At the end of class we will circle up in a standing circle before lining up and share out examples of the norm! Students can share their own experiences or something they observed from a class member. I will have 2-3 examples to share in case students don’t have any, but it also provides a great model of how to talk about examples of the norm.
For example, “I notice Jordan was working on the ratio table. He multiple each by 6, but then realized that wasn’t right when he got to the unit rate. He asked Jessie for feedback. Then, he went back and discovered his mistake.”
We also set individual goals on norms. I ask students to choose one goal that they are struggling with as their goal for the day. Then, they will quickly write at the end of class how they work toward achieving that norm in class.
Other resources for math norms
There are so many opportunities for teaching students about growth mindset using math norms. I encourage you to create some norms and give it a try with your students.
If you need more inspiration check out the math norms I use in my classroom here on my TPT shop.
Also, few other things you might be interested in:
- Academic mindsets and how I use them in my classroom to prompt growth mindset.
- Math Affirmations to build a growth mindset
- A blog post on building growth mindset using positive affirmations.
- How I gauge students’ math attitude using a survey!