August 17, 2009
I got this activity from a book called Writing to Learn Mathematics, and I've used it each year since I've read the book. I ask kids to write a Math Autobiography on the first day of school. I show four student examples, ranging from a student who absolutely hates math to one who absolutely loves math. I ask kids to tell me about their experiences in math classes: the good, the bad, the ugly. They can tell me what they liked about math classes from the past, what teachers have done or didn't do that worked for them, and if they have moved a lot. I ask students not use former math teacher names.
On the first day, I share with the students that I want to know more about each of them as a mathematician. I show each of the four student samples, then hand each student a graphic organizer. I give several minutes for kids to complete the organizer. I give time to share what they have written with each other if they would like. I collect the papers the next day. I don’t grade them but keep them and return them at the end of the year. The students reflect on their autobiography and growth over the year. From this activity, I've learned quite a few great math ideas from students' former teachers as well as learning quite a bit about each of my students.