## Student Teaching #1 – Redux

January 30, 2009 by Kathryn

**… or is it possible to teach science without arithmetic?**

© Diane Diederich - istockphoto.com

I finished my first student teaching block last week. It was difficult to leave as I had grown quite attached to the students. As I look back on the experience, I am amazed at how much I learned about myself, my teaching, and middle school science. It was a great placement with a very experienced teacher who connects with his students so well that there is a constant stream of high school aged visitors stopping in the classroom. The students were enthusiastic to the point that it was very difficult to practice wait time because many hands shot up after each question. The staff and environment were incredibly positive and friendly plus I had another student teacher from my program just down the hall.

One of the difficult parts of teaching science was the near complete lack of ability to do simple arithmetic for most of the students. They are not allowed to use calculators and the numbers are manipulated so that the arithmetic only involves whole numbers yet… they struggle. For one of the last labs, I let them use calculators and they regularly reversed the numerator and the denominator. We worked on motion and speed calculations – sadly there is division involved and there the brain freeze occurs.

Today I met with my cooperating teacher for my next placement. He said that for the general chemistry classes, the work is mostly nonquantitative. Sigh. I guess I will learn to teach science without numbers.

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on January 30, 2009 at 11:49 pm |suzanneI wouldn’t give up on it. Despite the fact that it’s difficult for a TON of students, math is really important in science and in life. I tried to incorporate as much “useful math” like division or finding percentages, etc., into my teaching as I could to give them practice. A lot of my students just didn’t seem to find any meaning in numbers, and a lot of the work in teaching them with math is to help them find the meaning in the symbols and the operations. That’s how I always approached it and it seemed to work better than another approach I saw which just focused on teaching kids how to do the mechanics of particular sorts of problems so that they memorized how to do those exact kinds of problems without actually teaching them why they were doing the operations they were doing or what their answers meant.

on February 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm |Wayne StratzI do math at my school when I teach physics… a student had a “scientific” calculator that became a being in itself… he would take the time to plug in the units and it would spit out some bizarre units in the final answer. it was a hoot. If I do math… you can do math! and let them use a calculator if you ever get to decide for your classroom, could you imagine not using one when you practiced science? yes, it would be nice if they all could do amazing pen and paper math, but it is no reason to hold them back from the amazingly cool world of equations. that was a rant, wasn’t it?

on February 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm |Kathryn@Suzanne – I suppose there must be some but my new CT really does it in a non-quantitative way. In fact the General Chemistry standards for the HS level are written that way.

@Wayne – I think Physics would be very difficult to teach without math. I think I probably would use calculators but it really didn’t help my students when I let them – they consistently reversed the numerator and the denominator. Rants can be good – they point out issues!

on February 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm |AndreaI miss the students a lot. I still refer to them as my students or my kids. I hope your new placement is going well. Plus you do not need to worry about teaching arithmetic to the students. I will miss having you down the hall from me. 😦