Looking for a fun way to get to know your new students this year? You could always take attendance and ask them to write out what they did over their summer vacation… Or you could try this super creative math autobiography project!
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Let them introduce themselves with a burst of creativity and pride that will instantly abolish the notion that “math is boring.” In the mathematical autobiography project, students are given creative freedom in describing their formative experiences, favorite memories, and overall attitudes about math- both inside and outside the classroom. This is demonstrated in three parts:
This is where each student’s creativity and personality has the opportunity to really shine beyond the confines of a poster board! Students can choose the most meaningful form of expression and tell their story in their own unique style. This could take the form of a rap, a poem, the construction of a model, or even a funny skit. Students can perform live in class or alternatively, they can record a video or audio clip to share in class, which can help empower introverted students without the pressure of an in-person performance. The student decides what, why, where, when, and how to present their math autobiography to the class. And yes, creativity counts! (Click HERE to get the rubric for this project!)
In addition to the class presentation, students compose a one-page written explanation of their math autobiography. Students can mix and match from a list of sample questions or create their own questions and answers to help them chronicle their math journey (whether fairytale, horror story, or thriller!) Some of the sample questions provided include:
When do you first remember doing math?
What is your proudest math moment?
What is your most embarrassing math moment?
What are your math experiences, both good and bad?
How do you feel about math and why?
How do you think math will affect you in your future profession?
The third and final piece of the math autobiography is a visual depiction of the student engaged in some sort of mathematical activity. This could be an illustration, photograph, or even a video clip. But more important than choosing the media, is the student’s analysis of all the tasks in which they personally (and probably unknowingly) utilize classroom math concepts in their every day lives. I dare you to find a student who doesn’t have an interest in SOMETHING that utilizes math! From cooking to music, athletics to video gaming, your students are using math, not just on paper, but in real life! Helping them to recognize their use of math and the mastery they already possess can boost their mathesteem for the next challenge they will master!
With the new school year upon us, why not take this first easy step toward a more project-based approach? Starting the year off with the math autobiography can help you empower your students as stakeholders in their own learning. There is increasing evidence to support the effect of providing choices upon student motivation. A project-based approach that accommodates different learning styles, provides choices, and teaches to the student’s strengths has been shown to not only reduce procrastination in junior high math students, but also leave a lasting impact on their intrinsic motivation! Can a worksheet do that? Another great way to show that math is "More than a Worksheet."