Saturday, January 31, 2015

How teaching math is like teaching a yoga and zumba class

I teach high school math.  I have taken yoga and zumba classes for years.  I do yoga with my cross country boys every Thursday during the season, so I have sort of taught it.

In yoga, the teacher is up front and tells you what the class will be like.  As you go through the moves, the teacher does them too but is looking out at the class and making slight corrections - make sure your hips are both facing forward, make sure your arms are under your shoulders in down dog.  She doesn't name names, but as a participant, you take the advice and tweak your body and it feels so much better.  I do this in math class after I put a problem on the board.  I walk around to monitor their progress and say things like - make sure you copy the problem correctly, watch that negative two, I'll give a hint - the answer is not an integer.  If I see a student doing something wrong, I will work with that student on the problem, then continue walking around and away from that student and then mention - make sure you are doing this or not doing that.  Working through the problem with little prompts and corrections along the way can help the student "feel" the right way to do the problem.

In zumba, you have to be able to laugh at yourself.  The teacher faces the mirror and says, "Don't worry about anyone else.  They aren't looking at you making a mistake, they are focused on me so they don't make a mistake."  And, it is true, even after having done it for years.  However, sometimes I do look away.  I like to watch the brand new students and remember what it was like.  They have big smiles on their faces as they try to figure out what step to do.  They giggle as they have to shimmy their shoulders for the first time or shake their hips.  It feels silly, but they do it.  You can tell they enjoy it when the whole class shakes and moves their way as a whole up to the front of the room and then the back of the room.  We all come together as one.  The instructor has her usual songs for us to dance to as it takes a while to learn the routines.  We get more comfortable with them each week.  Every now and then she will throw in a new one.  It is new to her teaching it and we try to stay with her as we remember what it was like to be the newbie in class and can't anticipate the next move.  In math class, having some daily routines plus some new variety keeps it interesting for both the students and the teacher. 

Zumba is just about numbers.  We count to a four step, sometimes an 8 step.  Zumba is big on the move - single, single, double.  It is tough at first but when you get it, it feels natural.  Same thing in math.  Once you figure out all the algebra steps are the same - add or subtract to undo the equation first, then divide or multiply, then maybe square root something.  It just keeps adding new steps, but the foundation is the same.  When you have done it for a while, you are comfortable with it and the confidence grows.  Just like in math class....I hope. 

1 comment:

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