• but I AM a "math person"...

    We've been engaged in conversation on the topic of "numeracy" at our leadership meetings this year.  As is true with literacy, for which it would be absurd to think of our students' development of reading comprehension skills to be the sole domain of one language arts teacher's instruction, so it is true with numeracy. One problem with this idea is that many of us -- older siblings, parents, teachers, school administrators -- have been allowed to think of ourselves as somehow being woefully unskilled in math and therefore given license to reject either our ability to learn more or the content area itself.  Too often, for example, we will hear a friend tell us about their love for history or the arts, but pronounce almost proudly how much they "hated" algebra, or could not find any use for it in the real world. Unfortunately, when our students hear us speak about math this way, they often pay attention. 

    source: Educational Leadership

    Source: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar18/vol75/num06/The-Power-of-Collective-Efficacy.aspx

    I had the honor and pleasure of teaching English literature to high school students for 19 years.  Sadly, prior to my becoming a school administrator full time, I too engaged in a bit of math bashing.  For example, when I began as a teacher, computers -- much less database software programs -- were not so readily available. This left me with the quarterly task of entering each student's grade by hand into a calculator, applying percentages to the various categories of each grade, and then determining the average. In the midst of this, sometimes I might hit the wrong key and have to start over!  I am sure I could be seen with two hands on my face mumbling hateful things about "Why do I have to do this?? I teach reading and writing, not MATH!" I am sure that some of this likely surfaced during conversation with colleagues and even in the presence of students, where I might have admitted to failing a certain college-level math class back in 1986 when the Mets were on their historic run to the world championship and math homework did not register as a priority for me. 

    But such animosity towards math was not only unwarranted, it was also inaccurate. Like many of my colleagues who plied their trade in the humanities, I too easily gave into such negative rhetoric, even though quite the opposite was true. For example, even though I did not enjoy the laborious task of calculating each student's average one at a time, I did enjoy estimating their averages to see how close I could guess them before calculating them.  I also enjoyed recording mile splits and averages for the runners on my cross country and track and field teams. More importantly, my wife (a math major!) and I enjoyed setting savings goals and projecting how close we would be, to the month, to qualifying for a mortgage on our first house together. ...And that's to say nothing of my obsession with batting averages and ERA for pitchers on my beloved Metsies!  Truth be told, I loved (some) math!

    The point I am trying to make is that we must all do our part to support our students' learning in math, even if we are not their "math teacher." One very simple way to accomplish this is to share with our students authentic moments when we are counting, estimating, or even persisting in solving a problem that requires mathematical thinking. Most of all, it is very helpful to resist giving into saying, "I hate math" or "I can't do math," as this allows a student to imagine being a successful person (like you) who does not need to be competent in math.  We know that is not logical, as virtually every person who has needed to create a budget, pay rent, or apply for a mortgage has achieved some level of proficiency with math. 

    And so I take leave of this topic (for now) with a math-related thought. The chart introduced at the top of this article shows the "effect sizes" of various factors that infuence student achievement. An effect says, essentially, is a statistical measure that speaks to the significance (or not) of certain effects on a population, regardless of sample size. As the bottom of the chart suggests, an "average" or modest effect size is anywhere from .40 to .60, meaning that all of the factors on the chart from socioeconomic status down to concentration/persistence/engagement have a modest impact on student achievement. Homework in this study has been shown to have a small impact (.29 effect size) on student achievement. Given that an effect size over .70 to 1.00 is considered "strong," it is noteworthy that "collective efficacy" is rated "off the chart" in the sense that it is not only a strong factor in students' achievement, but it is a VERY, VERY strong indicator.  

    So, what is "collective teacher efficacy"?  It is a shared belief among teachers in a given community that "we can do it." In other words, if our school community, including all of its teachers -- not just our students' math teachers, but also their other teachers, parents, elder siblings, etc., -- believes we can all be successful in math, we will be successful in math.