Friday, June 12, 2009

Slide 5: a=affect

The final piece of the formula reminds me of Verizon Wireless commercials where a cell phone user is confronted with the prospect of getting lost in a “dead zone.” The road ahead is scary. It might overwhelm most cell phone users, but the Verizon Wireless customer has a network of resources with him. He can prevail. That balance between the demands of the task and the resources we believe we can bring to it is a critical part of students’ affect, the state of mind they bring to learning math (or anything for that matter). I’ve written about affect, the work of Carol Dweck, and neuroeconomics in other blog posts, so I’ll keep this one short. Emerging research continues to show that students’ willingness to participate in the learning contract in the classroom along with their belief that their effort will matter pays huge dividends in their performance. It’s tough to do well if you don’t try. Do kids feel daunted at the task of learning math? Do they believe that it’s pointless because they’re just not good at it? Or do kids feel that they can meet the challenge? And do they think that meeting the challenge will bring benefits, immediate in the satisfaction that comes with meeting any challenge and long-term in their future academic and occupational success? This variable, often overlooked in when we assess our students, is a huge part of the formula that determines the kids that enter math classrooms everyday.

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