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Shame and Math for JMM13

Shame and math presentation for Joint Meetings, January 13. Contact me if you want more details about anything!
by

Angela Vierling-Claassen

on 18 March 2015

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Transcript of Shame and Math for JMM13

Hiding from Others Math Anxiety and Math Shame A feeling of deep-seated failure or flaw in one’s core self; experienced as feeling exposed, small, worthless, or wanting to withdraw or even die
Can occur in public or private, but signals a threat to our social being
Can be characterized as feeling unworthy of human connection What is Shame? Little ambiguity or room for interpretation of problems
Focus on products and algorithms.
Struggling students can be trapped in repeated cycle of negative experience
Written record vulnerable to judgment
Mathematics performance calls understanding and intelligence into question (not just memory) Vulnerability in Math Importance of:
Correct answers (over process)
Doing math quickly, efficiently
Doing math mentally or with neat algorithms
Doing as little mark-making as possible
Mathematics seen as an objective arbiter, non-emotional Beliefs About Math Out of control of student, who is unable to manage self-disclosure
“Right or wrong” nature of math can prevent students from saving face, or otherwise deflecting shame experiences Nature of Discourse Learn to recognize shame
Be vulnerable
Develop critical awareness of mathematics
Be aware of emotions in problem solving
Mindsets and story editing
Change teaching methods? How can we help? Shame is hard to recognize but easier as you practice
First, recognize it in yourself and in your role as a teacher
Teaching is an impossible job, and you do it publically, and that means that you are constantly managing a threat of shame and embarrassment
Learn to spot the signs in yourself, so that you can manage that shame in a useful way
Talk with others about your experiences of shame and embarrassment in the classroom (don’t hide it!)
Learn the signs in others
What if your students were embarrassed and you mistook that for not caring or wanting to make trouble?
Noticing shame cues, we can be careful not to invade other’s space and activate fear of exposure or create so much distance that we abandon the other. Recognizing Shame Direct: embarrassed, humiliated, mortified.
Isolation: abandoned, isolated, alone, detached, distant, rejected, withdrawn
Riciduled: absurd, foolish, like a freak, hurt, idiotic, offended, weird, wounded.
Inadequate: (not measuring up to other’s ideal): exposed, helpless, insecure, shy, stupid, unable, unsure, worthless.
Discomfort: antsy, nervous, restless, tense
Confused/indifferent: aloof, blank, dazed, empty, spaced
Anger: (at self and others) indignant, blaming, criticizing, harming, hating, threatening Words that indicate shame Downgrading events "it wasn’t a big deal," disclaimers "only" and "just"
Abstracting and talking obliquely rather than directly
Explicitly denying a feeling
Indifference: acting "cool" in an emotionally arousing context,
Verbal withdrawal: moving from sentences to single words, minimal responses, long silences
Distraction: topic change, joking, shifting away from relationship issues
Projection: verbally creating distance from own emotions, e.g. "no one likes to be rejected“
Verbal fillers, "like ," "you know" and nonverbal fillers like “um”
Rapid speech Hiding Behaviors Drop in the volume where the utterance becomes almost inaudible, lax articulation
Hesitation
Fragmented or disorganized speech
Laughing and “laughed words” that indicate embarrassment
Gestures and body behavior:
Hiding, averting gaze, lowering eyes, covering face, false smiles
Blushing
Attempts at control, biting/licking lips, biting the tongue, forehead wrinkling, fidgeting, mouth closed with lips pressed together
Watch for indications of anger as well Nonverbal Indications Key to overcoming shame is connecting through the shame -- hiding shame leads to alienation/anger/disempowerment
Be vulnerable and bring your shame into the open
With colleagues!
With students!
Sharing your shame/anxiety/frustration helps students to envision a different ending to their stories, one in which they are more powerful and connected.
Don’t be emotionless, but do use judgement Vulnerability
Invite your students to share their anxiety/frustration/shame in 'light' ways
Create a safe space to be vulnerable
Students know you respect them and want connection
Interrupt embarrassment/humiliation
Apologize when you do something wrong! Create a Safe space Critical Awareness Awareness of the role that math plays in our society, who benefits and who is harmed, and individual place in that structure Listen to students, assume they have something important to say about mathematics and about their experiences Emotions in Math Class Naming and normalizing emotions in class
Sometimes naming your own emotions can be a useful proxy, or using “I sometimes see students that feel …”
Use caution when asking students to name their own emotions
When emotions are causing problems, can have students label the emotions, identify intensity, and write down context
Consider doing privately, not to be shown to others
Give students a number of positive and negative emotional labels to refer to: anxiety, pride, anger, frustration, embarrassment, numbness, disconnection... Mathematical skills grow and mathematical thinking changes over time. Skills can be developed and ways of thinking can be altered (with effort).
Being “smart” is about challenging yourself, which means sometimes failing.
Leads to taking on new challenges and persistence. Mathematics is an ability and a way of thinking that some people possess and some don’t. If you are good at math, it is easy for you.
Being “smart” is about things coming easily and doing perfect work.
Leads to avoiding challenges and giving up easily. Growth Mindset Fixed Mindset Mindsets (Carol Dweck) Teaching students about mindsets can be helpful
Giving examples of students who changed their mindsets or grew their mathematical skills can allow students to imagine their own story with a different “ending”
Be careful to avoid moral judgments around mindset, growth mindsets are useful, not right
Fixed mindsets can be a sign of shame, so don’t shame them further for their mindset
Rather offer the option that there may be another way Mindsets and story editing Should we change teaching methods to avoid shame? Teaching methods Yes No Methods are already changing in elementary school away from rote learning of algorithms toward making meaning, and that’s (mostly) good But every change has a cost, and constant curricular and methodological change is stressful and triggers shame for teachers who may already be operating under a heavy burden of mathematical shame Topics that you could consider
Impact of race, class, and gender
Stereotype threat
Understanding implicit attitudes (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/)
Mathematics and civil rights (e.g. readings from Bob Moses)
Access issues in math education
Ethnomathematics
Critical look at mathematics requirements in high school and college (e.g. why is calculus required for medical school admission but not statistics), and “weeding out” courses
Ask why is math class so disconnected from “real life” math? In the mid-1970s, Sheila Tobias opened a conversation about the impact of "math anxiety" on women in an article in Ms. Magazine and a subsequent book. my story
part I my story
part 2 Math Anxiety Poor Performance Typical Model of Affective Issues in Math Help student overcome anxiety Better Performance Shame About Mathematics Math Avoidance Less Avoidance Performance Anxiety Avoidance Feeling Powerless Shaming others Anger Identifying as "Bad at Math" Poor Performance Here the student is the problem since anxiety is an individual problem Alternate Model Because shame is a social issue, this is a community problem, requiring solutions in relationships and communities Shame and Math Angela Vierling-Claassen
avierlin@lesley.edu
twitter: @faroop
http://LiberationMath.org Learn with students when you can, modeling learning and vulnerability for students
You also need a critical awareness of the educational system, who wins & loses, your role in it, ways it keeps you from authentic tasks & engagement Self-Denigration Adopting Protective Identity Negative: “I’m just bad at math” or “not a math person”
Positive: “I’m more of a verbal person / artist / people-person” (“I’m like X, and people like X don’t do math”) This is all the fault of a bad teacher or multiple bad teachers
“I hate math” Hiding mathematical difficulties and “passing” as a good math student
Avoiding writing down math so no evidence
Distracting self and others from difficulty (e.g. distracting class by being class clown) Apology, verbal self-denigration
Confessing math difficulties
Appease-and-please, accept “bad at math” and seek help Avoid taking math classes
Avoid doing math in life (e.g. avoiding calculating tip) Adopt a protective identity Protection through self-denigration Protect self through anger at others Avoid math in order to avoid feeling shame Hiding math difficulty Shame About Math Hiding from Self Avoidance Feeling Powerless Blaming & Shaming others Anger Poor Performance Response: Self-Protection Shame leads to self-protection, rather than real change Isolation and Disempowerment Misname shame, particularly as feeling inferior about mathematics
Performance anxiety, freezing, panic
Get angry at self for poor performance
Numbness, daydreaming Avoid feeling shame by replacing with other feelings Hidden self is potentially protected from shame because other people don’t know, thus cannot reject Appease & Please Secure support and sympathy from teachers and others in power
Get actual assistance to improve
However, students can also also be disempowered by strategy & even avoid mathematics Help Seeking / Appease-and-Please
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