When I was a student, I enjoyed math. It wasn’t close to my heart like reading, but it was always interesting to me to learn the different skills and concepts. I guess I had the attitude that I could play with it. I even remember figuring out the game of Algebra and perhaps frustrating my older brother because I saw his homework as a fun game to conquer.

When I became a teacher, I began to see math differently. I always remember teaching first grade math in a way that was so different from what I ever was taught. I began to realize through using math manipulatives and story exploration, I was learning math more clearly and with meaning behind it.

This past week I have visited a lot of math happening in classrooms. Kindergarteners explain and talk about math concepts. They give their perspective and insight to explain amounts in numbers. I have observed two students using whiteboards divided into a 100 frame exploring patterns of numbers. I walked into a second grade classroom where students worked collaboratively to solve a story problem. Each student had a role in helping the solution to come to life. In third grade, students are given a book mark that provides sentence starters that encourage deeper conversations around math that we call math talk. A fourth grade classroom begins with solving equations using the words from the story before they even begin jumping into the numbers. And finally today I talked with a fifth grade teacher who shared the work students did with remainders in division. She was cleaver in pointing out to students that when we are determining how many buses to take on a field trip and we cannot divide our students evenly on the bus, we don’t just leave the remainder back at school. Students then began to discuss the true meanings of remainders.

Math is so much more real and meaningful than my games I played in my head with math as a kid. Students talk about math and explain and explore. Walking into one classroom, students have multiple ways they solved problems. They talk with each other and discuss. They analyze the different avenues to the solution.

Sometimes it seems difficult to understand all of the new in math. But I am learning that there are many ways to see math and many ways to talk about it. Take the time to really listen to what is happening in the math world. I often find that I learn something new each time I take that moment to listen.

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