I’m beyond thrilled, humbled, and honored to be sharing my Math & CUE story with the passionate and innovative teachers at the upcoming Fall CUE. I normally spend Sunday mornings with my family so it’s fitting that I’ll be spending it with a few thousand members of my CUE familia.

What does math represent to students?

Ideally, it should represent a way to empower oneself, improve in problem-solving & reasoning, and open up doors to opportunities in education and professionally. However, for many students and adults, it represents a barrier, painful memories, anxiety, and fear or even hatred because of painful memories from their math class experiences. The main cause of this negative association is that students have only been subject to one bland representation of math in their lives. Math has traditionally been taught in a procedural and context-less process with an emphasis on speed and getting correct answers. It’s like growing up thinking Taco Bell Mild Sauce was the only kind of Hot Sauce you could add to your food to level it up.

I’ve realized that although I’d excelled in math throughout school and even got my degree from U.C.L.A. in mathematics that I REALLY didn’t start learning math until the last 5 or 6 years.  What I was really good at was playing the game of school and following directions, but I couldn’t fully explain what I was doing if asked.

In the last few years, I’ve grown exponentially as a math educator because I’ve learned how to teach and learn math through different representations.

Multiple Representations of Mathematics

Multiple representations of mathematics builds a deeper conceptual knowledge, relates different representations to one another; and elevates the perception of mathematics as an integrated whole.

From: Adding it Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics: 

Ch. 4: The Strands of Mathematical Proficiency

We’re living in a Renaissance-era of math resources so we can now strengthen students conceptual understanding of math via representations of Visual Patterns(ala Jo Boaler & Fawn Nguyen), Desmos(God’s Gift to Math Teachers), Manipulatives(not just for Primary Grades either), and more.  We can even have students make connections to Algebraic concepts and give them a new representation of Order of Operations by using Computer Science as they program their own videogame.

I’ve come to realize that this idea of multiple representations to strengthen understanding and make connections can elevate other areas in education. 

A Different Representation of a Math Classroom

“Why don’t all Math classes look like this?”

It’s crazy that CUE, an ed-tech organization, especially when it comes to the representation of the math classroom. It was through CUE that I was introduced to the idea of 360-degree math and the research of Peter Liljedahl’s “Thinking Classroom” research.  By increasing the amount of vertical whiteboard space, de-fronting the classroom, and giving students rich tasks that deserve conversation & promote multiple approaches to solving, much of the barriers to math can be obliterated.  Using visible random grouping increases the enthusiasm for students to be ready to work with any of their peers at the drop of a dime and if that’s not College Career Readiness, I don’t know what is. I even added some of my fellow CUE member & Classroom Chef Matt Vaudrey’s special hot sauce to liven up the environment by using his idea of music cues to signal transitions to different activities(“Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley,  “To the Left, to the Left” by Beyonce, “Come Together” by The Beatles, etc..).  Using music cues can exponentially decay the amount of anxiety in the math classroom. Like Bob Marley says, “One good thing about music,..when it hits you feel no pain” and there’s been far too much pain in math class for far too long.

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Bonus:

Below is a Visual Pattern that you can marinate on until 10/20!

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