Made4Math - Mathography



Like several others, I was inspired by #made4math, so I started this blog as a place to share.  It didn't take me long to decide on the first thing to share, and I hope others will be able to adapt and use this assignment.

I always tell my students that if I didn't teach math, I would teach English because I love to read, and I try to find as many opportunities as possible to get them to write.  On the first day of school, instead of completing a getting to know you form, I ask my students to complete a "Mathography," which is an autobiography with some math questions thrown in for fun.

For (at least) the past 15 years I have given this "essay" to every one of my math students (8th grade through AP Calculus) and I couldn't ask for a better first day of school assignment.   The students are not too happy about such an assignment on the first day of school, but their papers are always honest, revealing, and oh-so-insightful, and I read their essays several times throughout the year.

I change the questions a bit each year, depending on the course, but I have included most of my past prompts, and I usually ask 5-6 questions each year.  When I have repeater students (when I have taught Algebra 2 one year and Pre-Calculus the next year, for example) I change the questions quite a bit to reflect already knowing some of the kids' background information.  When I teach seniors, I add a few more questions about future plans, colleges, etc., and I can use their essays when I write recommendation letters.

The students are (almost) always so positive and excited during the first week of school, and they all have great goals.  After reading their papers, I know all of the "getting to know you" information, plus the students reveal how they feel about school and math in general.  They often give me personal information as well, such as family information (dealing with illness, divorce, death) or personal struggles.  For the question "Is there anything else I should know about you?" I give these examples: one student wrote she always forgot her glasses so she needed to sit in front, and another wrote her best friend was in the class and they talk too much, so please don't seat them next to each other.  (Sage advice from a teen, right?)

One new addition for this year will be for my juniors to comment with a sentence or two to our class blog.  I'm still tweaking the post, but I envision the post as an introduction to me, our class, our class culture and expectations.

Math-Ography


For my ESL students, I provide a fill-in-the-blank version.  For the past several years, I have taught a "newcomer" class, and most of my students are refugees.  If a student cannot answer any of the questions on the first page, I know to immediately begin as many interventions as possible!
ESL intro

I "stole" the Mathography idea from Julie H., one of my first math department chairs.  (She posted the papers outside of her classroom, but I treat them as confidential documents.)  I have also seen something similar in one of the AVID "Write-Path" books.  Could this assignment work for you?  Any suggestions?  I hope you'll be able to incorporate at least parts of a Mathography in your classroom--it is such a great way to get to know your students. Enjoy!
Share on Google Plus

About Kathryn Laster

I love teaching, learning, and sharing!
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment

8 comments :

  1. I have never seen the ESL version - I love it! I am going to share it with the ESL teacher at my school :) I'm so glad that you joined us! Welcome to the math blog-o-sphere! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very neat idea. I do something like this in combination with paper blogging activity (via @mcteach). Kids write a couple paragraphs on a question like you have done, kinda a mathography, and then we post them around the room and kids take sticky notes and make comments on them (always a hard skill). I like the ELL version might steal some of that :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the idea of paper blogging, and I think it would work especially well with my ESL students. Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
  3. I've done this assignment as my first homework every year since my second year of teaching. I write my students a letter that they read, and then they write me back a letter of their own. I love it, and they always come in handy to have when I'm writing my narrative reports or letters of recommendation! Last year was the first time the majority of my students replied via email--which makes this assignment more helpful than ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the letter idea! I think that would make the assignment seem a tad more personal...and how often do the today's kids receive actual letters. I really appreciate the suggestion!

      Delete
  4. I LIKE IT! I've done interest inventories before, but I like how specific and relevant this is to student learning in the math classroom.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love this! I am going to give this a try during the first few days of school.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this! Usually I have kids fill out an "all about me" that just gives some general info, but I really like the emphasis on identifying how they learn, and what kind of math student they are. Definitely will be moving to this!

    ReplyDelete