Sunday, September 20, 2015

Is Your Math Class Forgettable or Memorable?

A little over three days ago, I tweeted the following:
I highly recommend you read everyone's response. I truly appreciate everyone who responded. This question definitely can be revealing and/or create vulnerability. You will be my biggest ammunition as I attempt to inspire teachers at the Northwest Math Conference in October to create more memorable times in their math classes.

Here is my takeaway from your responses:

If you (the teacher) want your class to be FORGETTABLE (to both yourself and students), do the following:
  • TALK a lot
  • LECTURE a lot
  • make sure students are silent
  • have students take a lot of NOTES
  • ask closed questions
  • have students sit and get, then forget
  • give meaningless homework
  • focus on grades
  • discipline students because the math wasn't engaging
  • be bored with your own work
  • assign a lot of WORKSHEETS

If you (the teacher) want your class to be MEMORABLE (to both yourself and students), do the following:
  • make a math song to "Can't Touch This"
  • be kind
  • build relationships
  • tell stories
  • have students work collaboratively
  • have discussions about identity, character, and equality
  • allow students to propose methods that you never considered
  • build a class community
  • allow shy students to present
  • engage even the negative students
  • have students work in small groups
  • have students share their thinking
  • believe in your students
  • use stuff from the MTBoS like 3 Acts, whiteboarding, visual patterns, estimation 180, barbie bungee, number talks, etc.
  • build relationships
A few of you were kind enough to email me and share some amazing stories. A fourth grade teacher emailed me about two of her students writing a letter to Swingline asking them why their box of staples says 5000 staples, when their math class calculated it to be 5040. All because of Days 14 & 15 at Estimation 180. Those students probably won't remember the worksheet they had last week in any class, but I guarantee they'll remember writing those letters. Now I hope Swingline does the right thing and replies to those students.

Thanks again. Keep creating memorable times in your math classes. 



  1. Really interesting how none of the responses to forgettable parts of math classes are that surprising. Definitely worth exploring how to maximize the memorable experiences.

    1. Yes, maximizing the memorable experiences would be fantastic. One thing I forgot to add was the following:
      Most forgettable parts are teacher-centered.
      Most memorable parts are student-centered.

      Thanks Robert

    2. Good point, Robert. Yet, somehow it is very common to do many of the things in the forgettable list on a regular basis.

  2. The elements of community-building and relationships are SO key - glad to see those made the list!

    1. If Twitter didn't say them, I would have added them. Ha!

  3. When I reflect, I'm still doing some of the forgettable.

  4. I think it's unavoidable for any teacher. I believe it's important we be mindful of our distribution.

  5. I appreciate your "Memorable" list. We must always remember that it is essential to build relationships, have a community of learners, have activities that engage all of our students and believe in their success.

    1. Yes. I wish this was stressed more in teacher preparation programs. Well at least the one I experienced.

  6. It would be cool to place all of these on paper, cut them out, and have teachers sort them. Be interesting to see how they'd be sorted and what what type of header names would be given. Would the categories be different for pre-service and veteran teachers?

    1. This would definitely be an interesting experiment. I'd include some blank pieces of paper too for them to write in any ideas they feel are missing.

  7. I actually printed both lists out and stuck them to my monitor. Daily reminders. Thanks for sharing!