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Math is… Tweet Strips

This past school year, I was on a mission.  I had a goal.  The majority of the students I taught hated math.  Many had failed their eighth grade math test.  Others had taken Algebra 1 last year and failed it.  I told myself that I was going to take these students who hated math and turn them into students who loved math.  I mean, that’s possible in less than a year, right? 

Whether possible or not, I sat out to do it.  To help measure my progress, I challenged my students to write a #MathIs tweet on the very first day of school. I gave students a tweet strip with 140 boxes to represent the 140 characters that (used to) make up a tweet.

Math Is Tweet Strips

Reading these was disheartening to say the least.  I put the tweet strips away in a desk drawer, and I started teaching my kids algebra. 

Towards the end of April, I had my students revisit the challenge.  Again, I asked them to define what math meant to them.  I flipped through the results as they were handed in, and I was disappointed.  Today, I sat down to match up as many as possible.  I don’t have a ton of matches due to schedule changes, students moving in and out of the district, absences, and students who still have not mastered the act of writing one’s name on one’s paper. 

Looking at these side-by-side comparisons, I should be discouraged.  I didn’t reach my goal.  Not a single student said “I love math.”  But, I’m not discouraged.  This is not data to tally.  This is not a research project.  These are not the results from research subjects.  These are my students that I care very much about.  These “tweets” don’t tell the whole story.  I have students who tell me, “I hate math, but I love your class.”  And, that’s progress.  These students didn’t learn to hate math overnight.  My students and I are battling against years of past experience with mathematics.  And, sadly, I don’t have a magic wand that can erase their bad experiences.  But, that doesn’t mean that I am not doing something important.   

If you’re interested in reading what my students said about math and how it changed over the course of one school year, I’ve typed up the matches below. 

The Results

August: Math is super dumb in very ways. It can be used in many careers and jobs in the world. It includes carpentry, welding, fabrication and many others.

April: MATH IS Very Important to everybody. I do not like math because, I am not good at it. I would like to go meet the person who invented Math [and punch him in the face.]

August: Math is a bunch of #numbers and problems that are used everyday.

April: #MathIs to me the science of numbers and their operations.

August: Math is finding the answer to a problem.  it’s about making tables and writing equations.

April: Math is a series of numbers and letters and equations.

August: Math is solving problems logically.

April: #MathIs a science dealing with the logic of quantity and shape and arrangement.

August: I think math is a way to break down and solve a problem!

April: #MathIs hard!  You have to actually try!

August: Math is really boring and I cannot comprehend any of it.  There is a lot of numbers.

April: #MathIs horrible. (The student tried to spell terrible, but he couldn’t figure out how to spell it.  So, he marked it out and replaced it with horrible.)

August: Math is a subject that could get you a lot of good jobs.  math is fun, but it is hard.

April: Math is something that will help you in the future with all kinds of jobs.

August: #MathIs a very challenging and exciting subject.  It always keeps your mind working.  It is my favorite subject for these reasons and many more!

April: #MathIs really hard, but once you get it, it is kind of fun.  It is also a lot, A LOT of numbers, and sometimes even letters.

August: Math is the use of numbers to solve equations.  It is complicated, but is easy to learn if you set your mind to it.

April: #MathIs difficult to learn but offers a good challenge and makes you try your best.

August: Math is a subject that you add and subtract and divide and multiply to solve math problems to find the answer.

April: Math is fun and educational.

August: Math is a equation of numbers that add up to make another number.  It is something that you can use to do your taxes and stuff like that.

April: I like math because it is educational.

August: #MathIs fun and educational but boring with no reason for it.  Do not need it when we get out of school.  Do not care for it at all.  No reason to remember it.

April: #MathIs unimportant never going to be used in our life.  Although sometimes math is fun but can be boring.  And it is educational, sometimes.

August: Math is a bunch of numbers that you solve with a equation to solve a problem.

April: Math is kinda cool but not really.

August: Math is a opportunity that is used most in life and it is used to apply or qualify for a job.

April: #MathIs AMAZING!!!

August: Math is a subject in school that we use a lot in life.

April: #MathIs numbers, variables, shapes, problems, solutions, graphs, tables… Everything! O.o

August: Math is a boring and confusing class that I absolutely do not like…

April: Math is fun, boring, long, dumb, hard to understand, easy at times, and very useable in and out of school!!

August: Math is numbers.  It also has some type of letters.  It has equations.  It can be very complicated at times. #6thhour!

April: #MathIs boring, annoying, and tiring.  I find it a waste of time.  I will never use half of the stuff we’ve learned.

August: Math is a subject that you have to use in everywhere you go.

April: Math is something that will have to use the rest of your life.  math can be fun if you make it fun.  You always learn new mathematical terms and a lot of other things to.

August: Math is a system where you use a form of multiplication, division, subtraction, or addition.

April: Math is boring and I already know what I need to know in life.  I don’t need to know letters in math.

August: I really don’t excel in math like I should.  It is a difficult subject.  math is problem solving, to put it simply.

April: I believe math is a solution to questions.  Questions that people wanted to know the answer to.  So they created math.

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Math Is… Tweet Strips (PDF) (92 downloads)


Wednesday 29th of May 2013

This is a great idea Sarah! I'd love to keep track of this in my classroom one day. I'd be curious to see how some students would portray mathematics in other forms, for instance a prezi presentation. Some pre-service teachers made an interesting one: