Bridge the Gap

  • Bridge the Gap

    By Timon Piccini, posted December 18, 2017 —


    You are excited to present your awesome new conceptual tasks, but then you find out that the high school has never heard of army men. (See my previous posts.) What do you do? If you really want to feel accomplished in presenting new conceptual tasks, you will have to learn how to connect them to the pure mathematical world, the applied mathematical world, and your professional world.


    First, the Jargon

    Let’s talk about vocabulary words. Precise vocabulary is important because it is helpful to understand the world around us and, more important, to share our ideas with others. When I teach my students how to write, I tell them they need to be clear, and it is no different in math. To bridge the concepts that we have developed in our students’ minds to some of the more abstract “pure math” concepts, it is essential that we teach them the accurate terminology.


    When Will I Use This in the Real World?

    This query is everyone’s favorite. I am not scared of this question because I want my students to be asking it. However, I want them to be asking it in the positive, as a reflective question, more like “When can I use this in the real world?” The chance to engage where the math in the classroom meets the math outside the classroom is vital for developing students’ curiosity and investment. There are many resources to dive into, such as NCTM’s Illuminations, 3 Act Tasks, Mathalicious, and designing with Scratch. These resources will help students realize and recognize that learning matters for them here, now, and in the future.


    No Person Is an Island

    These concepts do not appear in a vacuum. The reason I can think of half of what I have shared is because I have been connected with so many great math teachers over the years. Tweeting, blogging, scouring the Internet, and spending time interacting with others are good ways to see if an idea has legs. Try something. Do a bad version of it. Then get someone to help you make a better version of it. You will begin to see a change in the way that students begin to view math and learning in general. When you connect these tasks to your fellow professionals, you will build something that is greater than the sum of the parts. More so, you will develop in yourself the attitudes that we try to instill in our students: collaboration and growth.


    If this all seems like too much, I encourage you to start small. We all need to start somewhere. If you can start, you can get to the point where dots start connecting, where the “real” world meets the “pure” world. It is worth it when you do.



    Piccini au picTimon Piccini is an elementary school teacher who has a strong love of getting students to see that mathematics is more than just numbers. His favorite sound is when an entire grade 7 class cheers because they are starting to understand a base five number system (a true story). Piccini considers himself a jack of all trades, and when he is not teaching, he can be seen running, hiking, playing guitar, playing video games, and attending concerts, and pursuing just about anything to do with good food. He especially loves doing all this alongside his better half, Kelli. 


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    Anna Wiener - 12/9/2018 7:13:49 PM

    Being able to show the students relevancy in math is key. The students on a daily basis are going to ask how this relates to them or when they are going to use it in thier own lives is inevitable. Lessons should be centered around relevancy so that the students are able to make connections and see the importance of it in thier own lives. Doing this is also likely to increase engagement. Not every lesson is going to be easy to do this, such as learning scientific notation, but it is important to at least have an answer when the students are asking. 

    Claudia Lay - 12/3/2018 5:27:41 PM

    Using correct mathematical terms in the classroom is very important because hearing the correct mathematical terms being used will encourage them to use them as well and will help students in their understanding of the terms, helping them build meaning. It’s kind of like when you go to another country to learn a different language, you learn a language by being immersed in it. You learn mathematical language by being immersed in it in the math classroom. It is also important to make the content in math relevant to your students in order to get your students motivated and engaged. This is hard for me, I am currently trying to figure out how to make a lesson on factoring algebraic expressions using greatest common factor relevant to middle grades students. I was thinking I could somehow make the extended response portion of the lesson relevant. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

    Ashley Schreiber - 4/29/2018 7:44:44 PM

    Using the correct mathematical terms is imperative for student learning! Although simpler terms may be easier, using mathematical jargon is important because the simpler terms will not be on their assessments.  If you do not use the correct jargon students may struggle with the topics when it comes to the assessments eventhough they know the information, but they don't know the correct jargon.  Relevance is so important when it comes to student learning.  Making things revelvant to students' lives will engage the students, thus you will get more out of them. 

    Dawn Griffith - 4/29/2018 4:25:01 PM

    Relevance is key. Connecting your lessons to the students real-world lives is the one of the only ways to get them motivated and engaged. Correct mathematical jargon is also important, but you have to start small. Start by using slang or another word to describe a vocabulary term, but then make sure to mention multiple times throughout the lesson what the correct term is. Once students can understand a term in their own words, they can relate it to the actual name of the term. 

    Loryn Gavula - 4/20/2018 1:16:09 PM

    I think students should ALWAYS be asking the questions, "When can I use this in the real world?" but, as mentioned, in a positive light. I want to communicate to my students that there is a reason we are leanring what we are learning, even if that means we take a day and research where factoring will appear in their lives in the future. This will engage them and create a decire to learn.