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Success: What is it?

As a former collegiate athlete, I have a hard time turning off my competitive spirit - the summer reading challenge stands no match against my sheer drive to win all of the prizes. But that got me thinking, what does “winning” in math class look like? To be honest, I never thought of math class or education as something you can win. Education is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Learning is constant, whether it is in a formal setting like school, or from living life. School is a tool and practice environment for you to learn how to analyze, synthesize, and communicate patterns. We learn specific skills, which may or may not be useful in future career paths, but ultimately, we learn how to think. But I realize that for some, promoting to the next grade, mastering specific skills, getting a diploma or degree is the win, much like getting a hole in one. So the question, “what does success look like?” is vital. When a students’ definition of success is not aligned to the adults in their life, it can create anxiety, stress, and perhaps general unhappiness. The same can be said with partners, and parents and children, thus making it one of the most important questions to explore together. When we are clear on what the outcome is we want, we can spend our time focusing on how we can achieve what we want.

What is success in my math classroom?

  • Students feeling fulfilled with the effort they put forth in my class

  • Students showing growth in communicating their understanding of math concepts

  • I feel fulfilled in the effort I put forth in planning and presenting information

  • I am available for students to ask questions

What does success look like in my math classroom?

  • Students are actively participating

  • Students consistently make choices that meet mine and their own expectations

  • I use data and observations to adjust how material is presented or the pace it is presented

  • I meet with students individually or in small groups to address questions

What are signs of success?

  • Students submit assignments on time

  • Students enjoy coming to math class

  • Materials/Resources are prepared/posted before class begins

  • I provided timely feedback to students

In my definitions of success not only have I clearly defined my expectations for myself and my students, but I also have communicated what I value in my classroom: effort, improvement, and feedback. The hard part is then to consistently act and send messages in line with those values. I want my students to know that they are the author of their own success story, just like I am of mine. You have to define what success is and then consistently make choices that are in line with that vision. Every once in a while, the vision may need some updating, and that is ok. But the most important first step is to define that vision of success.

This is my challenge to you. What is success for you? What does it look like? What are signs of success? When you are clear on this, then you can think about how the tasks and assignments you assign are aligned to that vision. You can think about how your grading policies align and lastly, you can think about how you build relationships with students so they can meet their own and your expectations.

Happy mathing!


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