Today's Classroom

Creating an inclusive, welcoming mathematics environment

"Engaging and supporting all students is not easy, but it is our duty as classroom teachers."

~ National Council of teachers of Mathematics
Obviously, there are a multitude of different ways that educators can increase their efficacy in the classroom and enhance students' learning experiences. The following tip sheet is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the things that educators can do to create an inclusive and welcoming environment in the mathematics classroom. Rather, these tips are intended to be starting points for reflective thinking. As Pual Gorski notes, in his article on the Myth of the Culture of Poverty, educators "must consider how our own [biases] affect our interactions with and expectations of our students." Reflecting on our own attitudes, beliefs, and previous practices is vital if we are to ever truly affect change in our own classrooms.

#1 Create an Environment for Learning

In order for students to fully attend to lessons, they must not be distracted by physical and/or emotional stressors. Some considerations for students' physical environment are:*
· Good ventilation

· If possible, natural light

· Comfortable chairs

· Enough room for movement

· Plants, flowers

· Multi-sensory stimulation


In addition, students must feel emotionally and socially "safe." They must feel that the classroom is an enjoyable and stimulating environment, in which they are free to express their ideas and questions. Some considerations for the classroom atmosphere are:*
· Make students know and feel they are valued

· Make students know and feel you appreciate their efforts

· Devote time to team-building activities (group bonding)

· Offer variety and choice so students feel more involved

· Do your best to create a helpful and friendly atmosphere

· Treat each lesson as a unique opportunity for students to create strong and helpful memories

*From the Teaching Resourcefully: Feeling Safe in the Classroom website: http://aprendiendoinglesydisfrutandoelproces.blogspot.ca/2008/11/feeling-safe-in-classroom.html

#2 Make Content Relevant and Inspiring

"Educators at all levels need to be aware of the issues and challenges that face different groups of students and also knowledgeable about what actions are essential to support their success," (Curriculum Services Canada, http://resources.curriculum.org/secretariat/may24.shtml). Students come to school from a wide variety of backgrounds. They have different interests, strengths, and attitudes about education. The curriculum must be individualized (but not modified) to meet the needs of these learners. Formulaic problems and pedagogy rarely inspire creativity and significant effort from students. Good teachers compel - not force - their students to learn and complete assignments on time and with care.

#3 Engage Parents

"Study after study has shown us that student achievement improves when parents play an active role in their children's education, and that good schools become even better schools when parents are involved," (Ontario Ministry of Education: Parent Engagement, http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/involvement/.

Engaging parents can be one of the most challenging duties of the classroom teacher. Time constraints, unpleasant interactions with one or more parents, and a lack of communication tools can often dissuade teachers from actively seeking out parental involvement. This is unfortunate, as "Students are more likely to be motivated, to earn higher grades, to have better behaviour and social skills, and to continue their education to a higher level when their parents are actively engaged in supporting their success at school, (Ontario Ministry of Education: Parent Engagement).

Fortunately, there are many ways to encourage parental involvement in schools:


  • classroom newsletters


  • regular homework assignments


  • home-school communication logs


  • open houses


  • "math snack" nights for parents


  • technology tools such as Edmodo, blogging, and Padlet


#4 Change it Up!

Let's face it: we all become bored when we're presented with repetitive tasks and over-used tools. It is important for educators to incorporate new technologies, manipulatives, and presentation strategies in order to prevent student disengagement. New technologies such as SMART Boards and iPads, 3-part lessons, group tasks, and a variety of manipulatives are integral components in today's math classrooms. Good teachers will take the initiative to learn about new teaching strategies and tools (e.g., Bansho, math congress, iPad apps, etc.), and readily incorporate them into their teaching practise.

"Not all students learn the same way, so we must vary our approaches to lessons and provide students with manipulatives, visuals, projects, technology and group work to reach as many minds as possible" (Tips on Supporting All Students, from the NCTM: http://www.nctm.org/resources/content.aspx?id=15863).

Tanya Kroocmo

Math P/J Part II


LE #1, E-tivity 9: Consolidation