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  • Writer's pictureLou Matthews

Are You Okayyyy?

Part 5. Ghana Project with InspireMath Ace It Foundation Quinton Sherlock. Spent another morning in classes at the Church of Christ Primary School and then a meet with officials at the District office. Being a former district office guy in Bermy, was anxious to talk with officials about the upcoming workshop. 80 teachers are coming after we installed a cutoff. My my first visit to the P6 (grade 5) classroom featured a male teacher. There were at least two male primary teachers in the one-class per level school. You don't always bump into male primary teachers and it is a powerful experience whenever it happens. In fact all of the teachers in primary and middle have been male. There is a distinct authority in talking with the students and an enjoyable call and response..."are you okayyyyyy (singing)... followed by "yezzzzzz" by the students. It's pretty to watch. The teacher was clearly confident in his content knowledge and plowing through this one problem steadily. He focused in on one particular method (ratios) and spent lots of time on one problem. I did not offer assistance (would only on invitation) but he did get me a text to see where he was teaching from as he would come to the back of the room to check his work then back to the board. Nothing out of the ordinary really from a teaching perspective. A UK styled text book but substituted for Ghanaian names, etc. In these kind of lessons, you will see the same thing: (1) lots of notetaking, (2) direct instruction; little room for alternative methods and strategy, and (3) mixed levels of engagement. Same everywhere.

I keep thinking these kinds of lessons are okay for basic skills but can never bring out the brilliance of our children. Even still I was amazed at how closely knit the classroom is, who 50 students share desks and work so easily together. 50 students. Communal space. I find this to be an impressive cultural feature that would really aid more rigour.

The second male teacher taught P3 (grade 2) and I also spent time in his class. In the second class, students were doing a test by copying down problems on the board and then completing them. This was norm and most of the content was focused on basic operations. I walked around in this class and asked students to solve problems for me. I noticed students struggling with a particular problem student do things different and the teacher let me join in and pose some questions to the entire class and really push the content along.

The students are READY! We have to challenge them more. We have to move beyond basics...move beyond these limiting textbooks and really let them think and show what they can do. I mention this at our meeting with District officers and teachers as well. Can't wait until tomorrow and the workshop to open up these ideas:

1. How do we use community and culture to challenge students to do powerful math? 2. What shifts do we make as a teaching community to inspire students in mathematics? 3. How must our children's experiences DIFFER from our own 4. What is Mathematics, really?

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