Alive

Post #1 in what’ll be a small series on my August summer professional development reading.

I picked up a copy of Ilana Horn‘s book Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join In last summer, and made zero progress reading it until now. As I read the introduction properly this week, I joked to my spouse that I think the problem I’d had was that the title word, “Motivated”, set me on edge — too many negative connections of trying to force student engagement where there was no interest. But ironically, what the book is actually about is exactly what I do want in my teaching, summed up in the five major areas Horn outlines: Belongingness, Meaningfulness, Competence, Accountability, and Autonomy.

My partner suggested, well why not make that the title? I laughed but a minute later she handed me sticky notes and a marker, so, well:

Since taking this photo, I’ve taped them in place. It’s helping.

The book takes a unique and fantastic approach of presenting a number of #MTBoS-powered case studies and showing how, despite their differences, there are powerful why reasons behind these teachers’ classroom design decisions that provide a common thread.

(Or at least, that’s what it’s starting out to do. I’m at chapter three now, I think.)

I am decidedly reading this book through a Thinking Classrooms lens, or alternately looking at the Thinking Classroom approach through the lenses this book offers. Student participation and engagement with the math is what the TC approach was literally measured and optimized for, so there’s overlap like crazy. However, TC was developed first as a series of “how” experiments and only recently is the lead researcher behind it now (joyfully) digging into and gathering the data on the “why” that it works. So Motivated provides a contrast in method, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it as I continue reading.

(Post-publish edit: I forgot to explain the blog post title! I just taught a grade 11 summer school class in which there was a distinct lack of motivation. I want my students to be alive!)

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