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When I talk to math teachers I tend to forget that most math teachers see themselves as an “expert” in teaching mathematics. So, last night’s Twitter Chat was not any different. If you have ever participated in a Twitter chat you know that the chat is an hour long with about 5 to 6 questions that are posted for discussion. Well, one of last night’s questions was

Day 1, introducing a new concept I:

  • Provide very clear instructions/ lesson about the concept


  • Start with a problem solving task where students will access prior knowledge to explore new concepts.

My response was I begin my math lesson with explicit instruction because I may have to front load my lesson with skills that my students may be lacking. A few seconds after I sent the tweet someone responded with a tweet that said, “You can’t front load thinking.” I chuckled to myself because I know that there are 2 kinds of thinking logical and illogical. In my experience with working with striving learners most of the time when you put a problem in front of students who have had very few or  any  success with mathematics they will either shut down or solve the problem completely wrong.

After I received this response there were several other tweets that were directed at my response that supported giving students the opportunity to explore or problem solve before teaching a lesson. I disagreed with all 3 of the tweeters because I said that there are other factors that needed to be taken in consideration even though in “theory” it is good practice to allow the students to explore with the concept before it is taught.

Many of the students that I have taught and currently teach are ELLs (English Language Learners), have huge gaps in math instruction due to their high mobility or behavior, and are deficient in reading.  These 3 factors alone can create a classroom full of reluctant students.

Guess what? This is exactly what kind of students I have this year. I have 115 5th graders most are ELLs, deficient in reading, and have huge gaps in math instruction due to poor behavior. Since August, I have taught reading comprehension strategies and taught math skills from 3rd to 5th grade in one lesson. I would be lying if I said that it is easy because every day is a crapshoot. This past week my Facebook status said, “I have been mentally tortured this week!”   If my Facebook status is any indication of what I go through on a daily basis trying to teach students who have been labeled as the “special” group then my life will be forever changed.

It’s a good thing that I believe in achieving the impossible. Each day I step into my classroom and I teach my students as if they are the president’s children because I have asked them to trust me to teach them. These are the children that everybody saw as special. Even though I sometimes I feel like I can’t think of anymore ways to teach a math concept and my mind is so tired one of my students’ light bulb will light up and they will smile at me and say, “Miss Williams I get it!”

When the Twitter chat was over and the side conversation that I was having ended, I sat back and thought about some of the things that the tweeters were saying and I still believe that I’m doing what’s right for the students that I teach. They may not agree with how I teach but when a student tells me that I make math easy then I must be doing something right!




Michelle Williams is a veteran educator committed to finding new and exciting ways to reach the young...

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