Build Schoolwide Math Confidence

Topics: STEM

When planning for this magazine issue focused on math instruction, I turned to the Principal magazine Editorial Advisory Board for guidance. They offered pain points such as “making math a thinking class and not just a computation class,” “emphasizing number sense in the early years, so students have a strong foundation before more complicated math,” and “structuring math instruction to include ‘math talk’ so students are able to have mathematical discussions to support critical thinking, problem-solving, and flexible thinking.” But by far the most prevalent issue cited was having hard conversations about teachers’ level of rigor in the classroom, which they saw as linked to teachers’ math competency and anxiety about teaching math.

According to a focus group conducted by Rhode Island principal Sabrina Antonelli, many teachers don’t feel adequately prepared for math instruction. One of her findings is that teachers’ comfort level with math instruction appeared to correlate with how well they did in math when they were students themselves (see Antonelli’s article, “Equip Your Instructors to Teach Math,” on page 16). Antonelli describes a reverberating cycle that starts with students’ math experiences in elementary, middle, and high school, and how those can carry over to affect their instructional competence as a teacher.

The articles in this issue provide guidance to school leaders who want to halt the cycle of math anxiety that can pass from student to teacher and back to student again, as well as elevate math instruction schoolwide.

—Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.