4. Mod 4 Reflection: Connecting theory with the classroom

Throughout the process of working through my master’s, it is important to me to continually bring what I am learning back to how I can use it in my teaching.  I was initially nervous about taking a class regarding learning theory but quickly connected with the theory I use regularly, even without knowing it.  I constantly use constructivism in my teaching methods and within the curriculum throughout all the different grades I teach.  Looking at the subject of math, there is traditionally a gap in how math is taught and how it is used in the real world.  The closer we can bridge that gap, the easier it is for students to understand the importance of the subject and why they need to continue to study it.
I was never a student that needed to understand why we were learning the concepts.  I have always seen math as a fun puzzle.  I didn’t care if I would ever use it again, I just enjoyed trying to figure out the problems.  However, that attitude has handicapped me as a teacher when students ask why we need to learn a skill, or when will they ever see it again once done with high school.
Transitioning from a behaviorist approach, the way I learned and started teaching, and into a constructivist approach has answered some of these questions.  Since the philosophy of constructivism puts the learning into the hands of students, instead of the teacher’s, using real world examples in math is crucial.  We always start a new unit by looking at a real scenario and allowing students to try to figure out the situation on their own.  Once ideas have been established, then we bring in the skills.
Throughout this process is the use of graphing calculators.  It is fun to start teaching students how to use the technology and their excitement at what the calculators can do.  Then, the older the students get and the more they use the calculators and experiment with it, the more they teach me short cuts and new methods of finding answers.
Through this approach, using constructivism and technology, I rarely get asked how math is used outside of class.  Students are seeing the importance of math and realize they will see more of it in college.  It was fun to connect learning theory with what I already do and firm up my own personal beliefs in how I teach and how I should use the curriculum I’m given.  It also gives me confidence in parent’s and student’s question’s regarding the usefulness of mathematics and the quality of curriculum that we use.

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