math stories

Reflecting on our math stories can help us analyze how we got to where we are in math. Our past experiences, current mindset about teaching are all part of our math stories.

Our Math Stories: Past, Present, & Future

Let’s start by reflecting on where’ve we’ve been, our past. What memories do you have of math class? What happened in math class that helped you learn or what caused you to not understand math? These experiences are so essential to understanding our own journey and translating that into how we show up in our math classrooms today.

math stories


How are our math stories formed?

Take a look at this quote about teachers, and all adults in America. The education system we graduated from taught us math in ways that in most cases were damaging. Rarely did we engage in discourse, sense making tasks, or grapple with complex problems. We learned rules, were timed, and pressured to perform calculations error free. Few of us grew up solving real world problems that allowed us to apply math to our everyday lives.

Quote from Why Do Americans Stink at Math? by Elizabeth Green

We know our system is flawed and progress has been made in the past decades toward change. I’m curious to know what you are working to change about the education system or your opinions on what needs to change. I’d love for you to leave a comment below with your thoughts!

In NCTM’s book Principles to Action they start off with noting the progress made and celebrate. Some notable points include, The percentage of 8th graders scoring proficient or above on the NAEP rose from 15% in 1990 to 36% in 2013. On the same test fourth graders proficient or above scores rose from 13% in 1990 to 42% in 2013. However, as noted in Principles to Actions, these are impressive increase due to the hard work of educators in the United States, but when compared to more diverse range of test takers we are far from where we need to be.

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student centered math

How do our Math Stories show up in our teaching?

Let’s take a look at how our math experiences (aka math stories) translate into our teaching careers.

Quote from Why Do Americans Stink at Math? by Elizabeth Green

This quote accurately describes a big part of my own math story. You see, when I started teaching math to 1st & 2nd graders I brought along all the misconceptions and lies I had been told about my math capabilities. I was told how good of a reader and writer I was through out school. I quickly learned that my talking and questioning that was welcomed in social studies class had no place in math. I wasn’t fast at my multiplication facts and still used my “count by songs” to solve 7 x 8, even on my first day of teaching. I wasn’t a math person, I was a reading and history person. To top it off, I was completely at peace with that. So, when I went to teach math I didn’t have the same sparkle I had with reading. I used the curriculum. I taught the script and walked my students through completing the worksheets. It was working for me… but not my students.

You can read more about my teaching journey with math here. 

Changing Math Without Addressing our Math Stories

math stories

Here’s the deal, we know that we are coming out of a broken system. Thanks in large part to the work of NCTM and the researchers we have guidance on how to develop math classrooms that strive for sense making and conceptual understanding. We are seeing shifts in curriculum and we’re submerged into this “NEW” way of teaching. However, the oversight in these shifts was the teachers. Yes, we have professional developments and trainings, but they often focus on the program or curriculum and little on addressing the fact that this is new math to us, too.

So, what was learning math like for you?

In research from Rachel McAnallen (2010) she found that 33% of elementary teachers report having math anxiety. They describe the anxiety stemming from traumatic memories such as…

What would you add to this list?

For me it was the pages and pages of math problems that I had no idea how to do. So, I would flip back in the text book and find the example and just copy it subbing out the numbers from the problem.


How do our math stories play out in our classrooms?

We know, as the above quote illustrated, that how we were taught is what we default to when we teach. I urge you to reflect on the practices in your classroom and consider how those practices are writing your students’ math stories.


As you plan for next year consider…

What is your math mindset?

What is your math vision for your classroom?

What is a mathematician in your class? (What do they do? say? feel?)

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Maybe you’re ready to make some changes?

Releasing in May of 2020 is a new pd series just for you! We will take the math stories to a new level, diving into our students’ math stories & use them to create a vision for math in our classrooms. This training addresses strategies to develop mathematicians that are empowered and engaged. I would LOVE for you to join this work!

You’ll walk away with 3 ready to use activities with your students, a fresh mindset, and inspired to inspire your students to love and understand math!


In fact, it’s a 3 part series!

math teacher

I’d love to have you on the wait list for this series. I know it is going to bring value and clarity you’ve been looking for as a math teacher.

Part 1: Mind over Matter

Part 2: Creating a Community

Part 3: Strong Start: A step-by-step guide to your first 4 weeks of student centered math!

Join the waitlist! 

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