SEL bolsters math achievement for San Francisco USD
- Incorporating social-emotional learning concepts like persistence and growth mindset into math instruction can create an environment in which students are comfortable with making mistakes and trying again, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Mathematics Supervisor Lizzy Hull Barnes writes in EdSurge.
- The district has worked to rethink the question of what it means to be "good at math," allowing more flexible approaches to student problem-solving and creating tasks that require time and collaboration as opposed to relying on the old approach of an answer-based classroom, she writes.
- The thinking that bred SFUSD's current approach began four years ago, she notes, when leaders were considering the looming implementation of the Common Core State Standards and a national push to tailor curriculum and pedagogy to the way students learn in the development of its curriculum and professional development strategy.
As Barnes notes, math can be an intimidating subject — so much so that it impedes some students' joy of learning. But it doesn't have to be that way. In many cases, the messaging around math simply needs to be rethought. A wrong answer, for instance, is merely an opportunity to learn, especially if it occurs ahead of an exam rather than during. Additionally, the idea that there are "math people" or that math is boring has created a stigma for many students, but that can be countered by tying lessons to other applicable subjects, like patterns in music and the fine arts or the mathematical properties of various things within nature.
Additionally, Zach Hurdle, an assistant mathematics professor at Southern Arkansas University, has found that telling students the difficulty level of various forms of math hinders their progress. While teaching students in grades 6-8 at an independent school, Hurdle found that they could perform well on more advanced high school-level math if he didn't tell them it was intended for students at that level — an approach he says was dependent upon allowing students time to discuss their ideas, make connections with prior knowledge, and simplify the process and problems while being provided minimal deep instruction.
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