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R Cubed: How a math teacher reflects, refocuses, and rejuvenates

Teacher summers are about resting, relaxing, refocusing, reflecting, and rejuvenating. A bunch of R words. And we need them. The last few years have been physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. I had a baby during the pandemic, then helped open a brand new school, taught both in person and virtually at the same time (worst idea ever), survived an eight month deployment with two toddlers, and taught the year after the pandemic (which I personally think was harder), had surgery, and moved to a brand new state (I have now officially lived on both coasts of the US). I have experienced the most anxiety in recent memory, which constantly had me question, “Am I am enough?” Now I know to pay attention to my body, my mind, and my emotions so that I can present my best self to my family, students, and colleagues. Paying attention encompasses three R words - reflect, refocus, and rejuvenate. Like the true math nerd I am, I am calling them R Cubed.


One of my practices that helps me revitalize is walking around my neighborhood in the swampy North Carolina summer. I listen to podcasts (currently Math Therapy by Vanessa Vakharia), take in the sunshine, sweat A LOT, think, and be inspired. Christa Jackson posed these questions in the NCTM publication, “Mathematics Teacher Learning and Teaching”

  • How have I helped my students see themselves as capable doers and learners of mathematics?

  • How has my instruction practices connected with my students’ cultural, linguistic, and mathematical identities?

  • How have my mathematical tasks promoted productive struggle, mathematical discourse, and reasoning and problem solving?

Since reading this article at the end of the school year in 2022, I ask myself these questions and walk to find out the answers. Here is what I came up with:

  • One of my biggest strengths is that I walk around my classroom and really look at how students are mathing, which means they have ready access to ask questions, and I can gently nudge them in a different direction if they need it

  • I had students complete some pretty cool projects this year, where I tapped into their interests and increased their engagement

  • One thing I did this year specifically was explore multiple options to approach problems. How might I approach this with a graphing calculator? How might I approach this without a graphing calculator?


I cannot separate reflecting and refocusing. Whenever I reflect on a tough question about myself or my teaching practices, I inevitably come to a conclusion about where I need to change direction. That is what refocusing really is. What are some areas in which you want to change direction (Jackson, 2022)? Here are some areas in which I am changing directions:

  • Purposefully building in spiral review into warm ups, practice assignments, and assessments

  • Balancing teaching new content in whole and small group settings

  • Ending the class period with a closure activity (I have been so bad at this in recent years. Closure is so important!)

  • Having students analyze their data, set goals, and reflect in meaningful ways

  • When launching a project, have students pose their own questions with the data I share with them BEFORE telling them what question to answer

  • I had too many students “opt out” of thinking (and working), my challenge will be to think of ways to change the environment and systems so more students don’t want to do that

  • Use more structures to help students communicate mathematics in a variety of ways (especially writing)

  • Incorporating intentional collaboration practices with clearly defined roles

  • Use more graphic organizers to help students summarize their learning


When I read this word, I immediately think of Botox - changing part of who you are to present yourself in a different and better way to the world. Rejuvenate doesn’t mean to change your identity, but it does mean that you are doing something so that you can present your best self to the world. It is action based. What can I do to feel inspired, refreshed, revitalized, and refueled (Jackson, 2022)? To help me feel inspired I listen to podcasts on my walk around my neighborhood, to help me feel refreshed I binge all the shows I had no time to watch during the school year, to help me feel revitalized I clean and organize my home, and to help me refuel, I try new recipes and make delicious food.

I hope your summer time is filled with resting, relaxing, reflecting, refocusing, and rejuvenating.


Jackson, C. (2022). The Three Rs. Mathematics Teacher Learning and Teaching, 115(7), 454–455.

“Take a look around. Experience the joy, wonder and beauty of the mathematics in your town.” If you are not a member of NCTM, do it! There are so many resources and supports for teaching mathematics. I have gotten so many great ideas from the PK - 12 publication, “Mathematics Teacher Learning and Teaching”. I set up auto renewal so I never have to worry about not having access to the amazing online and print resources. I have yet to attend an NCTM conference, but it is on my bucket list!


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