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Beyond Math Anxiety & Reform: Liberation in Mathematics

Talk to Boston-area Social Justice Educators Conference, May 2013
by

Angela Vierling-Claassen

on 18 March 2015

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Transcript of Beyond Math Anxiety & Reform: Liberation in Mathematics

Heteronomy: Teacher as sole authority Irrelevant
Doesn't make sense
Pointlessly difficult Everyone Needs Math Isolated & powerless students Isolation & blame of teachers Math Sucks Primacy of math (top of hierarchy)
Math as indicator of intelligence
Math as gatekeeper
Usefulness of some math Reform efforts focus on what we educators can do to solve their problems and get them to engage in the kind of work we value Why? Math Anxiety 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. Math Anxiety Poor Performance Typical Model of Affective Issues in Math Help student overcome anxiety Better Performance Math Avoidance Less Avoidance Here the student is the problem since anxiety is an individual problem 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 What is Shame? Can occur in public or private, but signals a threat to our social being Can be characterized as feeling unworthy of human connection Little ambiguity or room for interpretation of problems
Focus on products and algorithms
Importance of correct answers, quick computation, doing as little mark-making as possible
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 What is math? Write on post-it Put it up (if you want) Beyond Math Anxiety & Math Reform Liberation in Mathematics Angela Vierling-Claassen
http://liberationmath.org http://twitter.com/faroop
angela.the.vc@gmail.com Stories of Disrespect (59%)
By teacher (32%)
By "system" (18%)
By parent (9%) Stories of Struggle From qualitative analysis of 22 stories of mathematical difficulty Public struggle (18%)
Timed tests (14%)
Private struggle (9%) Examine experiences & memories
Be vulnerable, be in community
Get curious: Develop critical awareness
Recognize shame & relationship threats
Mindsets and story editing
Change teaching methods? Liberation Shame is hard to recognize but easier as you practice
First, recognize it in yourself . Talk with others about your experiences of shame and embarrassment.
Learn the signs in others. 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 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 Shame About Mathematics Performance Anxiety Avoidance Feeling Powerless Shaming others Anger Identifying as "Bad at Math" Poor Performance Because shame is a social issue, this is a community problem, requiring solutions in relationships and communities Relational Model Math as a Problem Your Story What is an intense or important experience you had in math?
Go with 1st thing that comes to mind
Jot down 1-2 sentences
I'll ask for volunteers to share Key to overcoming shame is connecting through the shame -- hiding shame leads to alienation/anger/disempowerment
Thus we need to make ourselves vulnerable and create supportive community
We need to share our stories, to listen to the stories of others, and to understand our world through those stories What can we do? Going deeper How is math taught?
Why is math taught?
How is math used?
Who has voice/power? http://bit.ly/besj4 Your answers: http://bit.ly/besj5
Food for thought: http://bit.ly/besj6
Want more? angela.the.vc@gmail.com
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