Frame it! Stat!

Below is a reflection one of my Calculus students wrote at the end of the first quarter. My initial reaction: I am going to frame this. (That will happen next week.) My second reaction: there is no better rationale for SBG than this. My third reaction: I’ve supported my kids pretty well. And my fourth and most lasting reaction: how gosh dang awesome are my kids?


1. I like the way that even though I was falling rapidly into a hole, and it felt almost impossible to get out, once you talked to me I became proactive and tried my best to do better. I like to continue meeting with you. I also like to continue to participate in class and asking questions. I think asking questions in class was the biggest way for me to better understand the topics.

2. I wish I would have started from the first day of school in this attack math mentality. I was acting very passive and like ‘oh I don’t get it now, but I will later,’ which honestly was the worst thing I could have done. I also wasn’t used to the class setting and the grading system. But once you emailed me and I met with you and I know that this is a class that I have to be in it 100%, and that your method is one that helps us actually learn, it was just beneficial. I needed that scare and wake up class because I was in serious denial. I became more on top of things. However, I had to dig myself out of a huge hole that I put myself in, but eventually the rhythm has become one that I used to. And I’m almost in a weird way glad that I learned the hard way because now I truly understand Math.



  1. It’s very moving to see this student (a) stand up out of his/her defensive crouch and (b) lean forward into his/her study of mathematics. I can think of no more powerful testimony for your great teaching. Congratulations! And keep going!

  2. Couple of thoughts:

    1.) The last sentence is amazing. Its incredible that the student can see the benefit of having to struggle, that it brings about better understanding and appreciation. That is the patient problem-solving that I think we all wish our students would embrace.

    2.) The “attack math mentality” is an interesting thought, possibly controversial. I think the student used it as an antithesis to the passive strategy of sitting back in the desk and assuming someone else will get them to understand if they choose not to put forth the mental effort. This is a learning attitude I would love to teach. What about students who see math as this formidable foe that they cannot conquer. I agree that won’t conquer it with a passive attitude, but is there something to be said about making math the enemy? How does a teacher walk the thin line of developing students who attack a subject without making the subject an enemy – something to be despised?

    3.) I am convinced that there is incredible value in having students reflect upon their own learning. It can be difficult for students to see the value of it, and therefore it can be tough to get them to take it seriously. Great job!

    1. In my first year of teaching, I used the analogy of “attacking math.” Since then, I talk with students who are struggling about how we attack uncertainty and confusion by gaining solid understanding, not superficial procedures. I don’t advocate them making math their enemy! Agreed with you!

  3. Hi Sam, I am bummed because I used to follow you on twitter, but I think you blocked me from following you? I am just another math teacher who greatly enjoys learning from your insights. :( (@rdkpickle on twitter. I have it locked because I don’t like my internet presence to be student-searchable.)

    1. Every so often I go in and block twitter-bots and the like. I also tend to block ppl whose tweets are protected, because I don’t know what/who they are. But you’re back! Sorry!

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