Math Autobiographies

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SWBAT to describe their feelings toward math and discover why they feel that way.

Big Idea

The first step to mastering mathematics is understanding your relationship to it.


10 minutes

We start off the lesson by sharing the contract that we signed for the class and in turn give them the contract that we have written for them (the syllabus): sylllabus sample 

We ask students to read through it at home and let us know if they have any questions. We go over the syllabus in the next lesson. The goal is to simply hand it out.

I spend about 5 minutes reviewing student graphs from the previous lesson and explain what each graph represents. 

Math Autobiographies

50 minutes

Math autobiographies have helped me understand my students and help them as learners. The goal is to understand how they feel about math and why they feel that way. 

We start by reviewing the sample Math Autobiography in Joan Countryman's book, "Writing to Learn Mathematics."  If you are curious about writing in math class, then check out this book. She gives a passionate and logical argument for including writing in the math classroom. You don't need her student samples, but I recommend them and use them to introduce the lesson. 

I start the process by acknowledging that its okay to feel the way you do about math. If you love it, great. If you hate it, that's ok and if you are unsure that is normal. What isn't ok is to give up or say you can't do something or don't know how to do it. This is my first class poster: 

Instead of saying "I don't know," I ask students to say something like "I could really use some help on this" or "perhaps you could rephrase the question?" We come up with a list of acceptable phrases. Anything that acknowledges you need help without being negative. 

Then I show them the samples from Joan Countryman's book, have the read and annotate for about 10 minutes. Then we share what they liked and they explain to me what a "math autobiography" is.

Once they have had a chance to see and describe the assignment, I show them the guidelines: Math Autobiography 2013. We review it and then Math Journal 2 - Autobiography Rubric (it is an interpretation of our school's writing rubric. I suggest you visit your humanities teacher and adjust their rubric).  

I finish class by giving them about 20 minutes to write their autobiographies (They have about 4 days to complete them.) As I circulate, I return the first series of comments from their name tags (from the lessons before). I circulate and talk to them, I like to help them realize that their first math assignment is to write. This is something that many students, parents and teachers find surprising. But experience has me convinced that it can work.