Reflection #1: The Art of Smart
Greg Tang opened the first day — early! Driving from Fort Wayne, where I scored free room and board with my mom (!), took longer than I thought, but I was ready to learn! It was 8:15 at the All Write Institute, and Greg Tang — the math teacher — started his keynote session: “What’s that math guy doing at a literacy retreat?” (Laughter and fun ensued throughout the hour presentation!) Although I was not present at this particular institute to learn math or how to teach math, I learned! I listened as teachers “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” at his pattern “tricks” (which he firmly told us were not tricks, but ways to see patterns). I learned to use larger numbers. I learned that one uses math every day to experience the world. I learned that math, like reading or writing, is an art. The art of smart. Students should not learn their multiplication facts to 11; they should learn how to multiply. Greg Tang taught us, and we were in awe!
One area of new thinking for me was that math is a language. I heard this before, but during this session, I lived it. Math — my somewhat foreign language — can become easier with practice and guidance (and more practice) that lead to understanding. Understanding is the key. Just like in reading! We read to make meaning. These literacy teachers from far and wide came together in Indiana to learn, to understand, and to have fun. Greg Tang makes math fun! I want to use Greg’s message in my classroom each day: You can learn to understand with the right supports and lots of practice, and you can have fun doing it! I want my students to practice what I teach. I want my students to understand what I teach. I want my students to have fun as they learn. Every day.