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Jenna Montalbano

Mathematical Teaching Philosophy

I hate Math! shouted fifteen-year-old Jenna. Flashing back to my freshmen year


of high school, pursuing a secondary education mathematics degree never crossed my
mind. Honestly, neither did going to college. Its hard to believe that at one point in time I
was one of the struggling students in math class. When I reflect on that year, I realize the
factors that contributed to my dislike for mathematics, the biggest being my selfperceived image. As a freshman, I was still searching for my identity and trying to figure
out where I belonged. One of the reasons my self-image in mathematics was lacking was
a result of the relationship I had with my teacher. Throughout the year, she continuously
embarrassed me in front of my peers and made me feel unwelcome in class. As a
teenager, I allowed this relationship to affect my attitude toward mathematics; I shut
down and had no desire to be successful in math.
During my sophomore year of high school, my perception changed tremendously.
My success was possible because of a few amazing teachers. I felt like more than just a
student in their class. I could talk to them about topics other than school, and they were
always ready to listen and give advice. This rapport made me gain respect for my
teachers, and motivated me to work hard in class. Somewhere along the way, I began to
excel in math, and grew a passion for it too. These teachers made an impact on my life,
and I hope to give my students the same rewarding feeling.

As a teacher, its important that my students see themselves in mathematics. A


quote by Walt Disney puts this goal in perspective, If you can dream it, you can achieve
it. The first step in being successful is believing in yourself. I plan to model this
behavior in my classroom everyday. During my internship experience, Ive learned that
every lesson you implement will not go as planned. Mistakes are going to happen along
the way and that is okay. I learned that moments like these make for perfect opportunities
to demonstrate to my students that Im not perfect either. I make mistakes, but I will get
back up and keep trying because that is what is expected from the students in my class. In
these scenarios, I always try to relate to my students in two different ways. First, I share
with them the struggling experiences I had in math. This usually consists of my story
from freshmen year of high school or talking about the higher-level math courses I took
and Michigan State. I want my students to know their feelings are important to me and I
understand how they might be feeling. Another approach I use to show my students that
we grow and learn from mistakes is relating this to other areas of their life. For example,
I had a student who was passionate about soccer. I talked to this student about where he
has played, how many times he has practice, what they do at practice, and then I turned
our soccer talk into math. We talked about how practicing in soccer is similar to
practicing for math. He told me stories about mistakes he made in soccer and how he
learned from those mistakes to become a better player. By sharing his soccer experiences
with me, we grew a better rapport and the student was more open to trying new things in
class. In my eyes, building these types of relationships is the key to being successful in
supporting my students

Another norm I hold in my classroom is having a positive attitude. I try to teach


my students how important this attitude is for having a growth mind set. Developing a
growth mindset wont happen over night, but this is a skill we will work on all year.
Individuals with a growth mindset believe hard work and dedication are essential for any
great accomplishment. Therefore, by teaching students how to have this mindset, it will
allow them to be more successful inside and outside the classroom. One way I implement
to implement this is using the power of yet to reinforce this mindset. When a student
claims they dont understand a concept, then I remind them they dont understand it
yet. Additionally, I plan to teach my students to use this language with each other. I
think it is important that the students hear this often and they believe it as much as I do.
Therefore, if a student is feeling down or frustrated because they dont understand a
problem, then this is a good opportunity for a student to give them that positive
reinforcement and say Its okay if you dont get it yet. I believe that building this
support system within the classroom is a powerful tool.
Another reason students need to build a support system is to feel comfortable with
their classmate because they will be engaging with their peers often. During instruction, I
frequently place students in pairs or groups to talk about their ideas. I love hearing what
the students are thinking, and its rewarding to hear them build and learn new ideas from
each other. For example, I had students work in pairs for a lesson on proofs of
quadrilaterals using variables. As I monitored the pairs, I heard some great conversations.
In one group, I had two students trying to simplify the expression
students thought that

a2 +b2 = a2+ b2

a2 +b2 =a+b

a2 +b2

. One

, and the other student thought that

. I listened to them each explain their case, and then one student

showed which statement was true by using real numbers. When they came to a
conclusion, they felt accomplished, and I believe thats a feeling that you can only give
yourself. With that being said, I feel students gain ownership and a deeper level of
understanding when they are active in their learning. This helps them not only learn the
material, but build autonomy while doing it.
In conclusion, Im confident that my past experiences have shaped the person and
teacher I am today. Im glad that I know how it feels to struggle in math because I can
relate to my students who may feel this way. I hope to build strong relationships that
positively impact my students lives. My goal is that students learn more than just math.
They will learn how to persevere through challenges and follow their dreams. I love
helping others in small and big ways, but supporting students has been my dream for
years. It gives me the opportunity to guide them in the right direction and help them
achieve their goals. I want to help them see that anything is possible if you set your mind
to it. When they reflect on their education, I hope that I can be a part of the journey.

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