The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Building Confidence In Ourselves

I taught my students about function tables today. It was interesting, actually, because they were just a part of the math lesson that is part of our first unit on the fundamental concepts of multiplication. The students’ homework assignments have included function tables several times, but today was the first official lesson.

Because these are fourth graders, the tables were pretty basic: one desk has four legs. If I have 5 desks, how many legs? (Answer: 20.) If I have 20 desks, how many legs? (40). If I have d desks, how many legs? The simple equation is l = 4 * d; we can also determine the number of desks by knowing the legs: d = l / 4. After just one example, most of the students were ready to complete the tables on their own and then solve word problems, too.

It was a simple assignment, but it resulted in one of the best things I can hear in a classroom: “Hey, I can do this! This is easy!”

It is what I love about the math series I use. It starts small and builds up bit by bit. Sometimes it can seem like it is moving too slowly, but it allows my students to build confidence in their own abilities. They realise that they can do things that once seemed daunting. Yes, we are going to spend at least a month of school reviewing multiplication facts and multiplying two digit numbers by a single digit. Yes, some of them can do this already. But even they will accept the challenge of doing it faster, improving their fluency and monitoring their accuracy.

Taking it slow at the start lets them build confidence so that when I introduce two-digit by two-digit multiplication, they recognise that they already know how to do it; they just have to learn a new application. The information is there in their heads and thus the knowledge because accessible. We are going to start using more digital technology to support differentiated learning soon. Students will use resources like XtraMath and Front Row to practice where they most need the help. But we are also going to work together as a class to support one another, build confidence in ourselves, and know that we really can do whatever is thrown our way. And who knows? Maybe one of my students will be the person to solve a supposedly impossible problem in theoretical physics and receive the Nobel Prize as a result. (If that happens, I hope they will remember their fourth grade teacher and at least give me a shout-out at the award ceremony!) Is that a big dream? It sure is! But it all has to start somewhere; why not in fourth grade?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s