Building Mathematical Comprehension {Chapter 1}


I am so excited to begin reading the book Building Mathematical  Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  I have owned this book for over a year but have been so swamped with working on school related things that I haven't had a chance to just sit down and read!  Right now, I'm blogging from a beautiful cabin in Gatlinburg, TN that I am renting with the rest of my family for the week.  We have twelve people in one house.  We'll see who comes out alive! :)  On the drive down, I had a chance to dive into this great book!  This is a lengthy chapter full and is of so many great points.  So I'll share a few of my favorites!


Maybe I'm the only mind blown person here, but Sammons shows the similarities between good readers and good mathematicians in a chart similar to this in the book.  WOW!  How many times do we treat reading and math as completely separate entities?  As a special education teacher, I often do because my students typically struggle in one yet excel in the other.  This chart and discussion allowed me to see that although there are still clear strengths and weaknesses, there are still so many similarities between the two tasks.  As teachers, we need to be carefully watching for indicators of strengths and weaknesses from our students in one or both subjects.

The second point that I really loved pertained to background knowledge.  I believe that the knowledge of various skills shown in the chart above can allow teachers to help build and utilize background knowledge.  We often use this term in reading, yet it applies to mathematics as well.  Sammons says, "Students who have some foundation to build upon can make connections and create an understanding of the concept more readily than students who lack background knowledge." (Sammons, 24) As teachers we have to do what we can to ready our students appropriately for the skills that we are teaching.  If not, we are making mathematicians that are disengaged and frustrated.  I don't know about you, but I often feel the need to rush through things in order to "stay on track".  While staying on track is important, it is also imperative to properly prepare students for the upcoming skills.


The next two points were so was so good, I had to use the image ^^^ above.  In my classroom, I try to always set high expectations and do my best to support my students as they work to attain those expectations.  "Some students perform well in math because they recognize the shared expectations that the teacher and other students have, and then feel rewarded and fulfilled if they meet those obligations." (Sammons, 27)  I'm just going to say this and hope that it doesn't offend.  Please believe, I don't mean this the way it could come across.  Have you ever heard about 'that kid' from previous teachers?  Or better yet, parents who pull you aside on back to school night and paint this awful picture of how low their child is?  Ya know, the ones that sound as if they are practically brain dead and barely able to function because of the way others have painted them over the years?  Here's the beauty of it....they are NOT brain dead!  Why are we treating them as if they cannot perform or meet your expectations?  If we set the bar high and support them along the way, they will make progress and probably surprise you along the way.

The second portion of this short paragraph pertained to something really close to my heart.  I'll also take a second to share something from the keynote speaker at the iPossibilities conference I shared on Instagram last week.  Ginger Lewman shared a wonderful presentation about making learning meaningful, engaging, and most of all authentic for our learners.  She shared a fabulous story about two completely different students and the effects long term on their lives.  One student followed every direction, completed every task given to her, and appeared to have a bright future ahead of her.  Long story short, things weren't so perfect.  This type of student is GREAT at following directions and doing exactly what she is told to do.  She is an excellent student.  Fast forward a few years though and when the decision making is now her responsibility, she fails.  She is unable to make her own decisions or be in charge of her own learning.  It's sad, isn't it?  How often are we doing the very same thing to our students?  On the flip side, we could be helping our students become learners.  We could be allowing them to take charge of their learning and giving them authentic opportunities rather than just following directions and doing surface level tasks.  In this chapter, Sammons also discusses some of the same things.  If the learning that we present our students isn't meaningful outside the classroom, "the mathematical skills and behaviors they use in the classroom are seldom applied and are at risk of being forgotten."  Forgotten?!  Seldom applied?!?!  Do these sound like the qualities of a learner?  As teachers, what can we do to make sure that we are molding learners rather just students?

Sorry....I'm rambling!  In my defense, I told you that this was something I was passionate about!  What are your thoughts and favorite parts from this chapter?


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