3 Tips For New Teachers to Create an Optimal Math Environment

Yesterday, I was in my classroom preparing for the beginning of the year when a brand new teacher came in to talk to me.  He was explaining his feeling of pure panic for the first day tomorrow.  Eight years in, I still have that same panicky feeling, but there is SO much I’ve learned since that time.  His main concern was math.  He explained that we have so many things in place to set up routines for literacy workshops, but not for math.  So we talked through some great ideas for how to launch a math workshop.

Here are three tips for those energetic and amazing new teachers:

1.  Set up your expectations for your workshop.  You can do this the same way that you would during literacy.  The best way to do this is to tackle one or two items each day, and post anchor charts! Those anchor charts can be referred to whenever you encounter problems. Some things you might consider covering:

  • When it is okay to talk? When is it individual time vs. group time?
  • What does your math workshop sound like?
  • Where are the math materials located, how should they gather them and return them?
  • What does a typical math block look like?
  • Good mathematicians take risks and make many mistakes.

I always go over the math block (explaining the time we take to have a balanced math class) and make a chart for the wall.  Everyone knows what to expect each day:

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2.  Spend some time working through the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  A few years ago when the common core came out, most people had no idea what the math practice standards were all about. I took some time to write out how I teach them last year, so that I can start the school year with a detailed plan.  Then, I post them up as anchor charts with student work. Those standards will be an underlying theme as you practice math all year.

3.  Get to know your students and trust their reactions. Find out their attitudes about math from the beginning.  If you feel things are not going well, you are probably going too fast. If something is too hard, you’ve covered too much too quickly or the difficulty is too high. Check back to the Common Core to see if it is really something that should be mastered. Check with your team, how fast are they pacing their content?

Good luck to all of the new teachers out there! You’ll be amazing! The veteran teachers around you will be inspired by your energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas.  We learn just as much from you as you learn from us.