Friday, September 7, 2012

Mad Minute Makes Me Mad

How One Teaching Practice Ruined Math For Students

MAD MINUTE is a teaching practice widely used in Canada.  It includes having long strips of papers with lists of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts on it.  The goal is to get as many math facts correct in one minute as you can.
Blogger Autumn Shaw, age 16, shares her reflections on the years of MAD MINUTE and how it affects her to this day:
It all started in grade 1 when I learned to add.  I’d say its what has led to crying fits, hiding in the bathroom, avoidance techniques (breaking my pencil), stomach aches and just a general hate for math.
This one minute of the day could ruin my whole day.  It was literally the worst minute of the day.  I could do all the questions, I just couldn’t do them in one minute.
Some of the kids could, and they got their Mad Minutes hung on the board, they got stickers, they got glittery pencils.  All I got was a hate for math.
Then there were the teachers that thought 2 minutes a day of Mad Minute was a good idea.  A good idea to give me twice the amount of time to learn I could not do mad minutes was not a good idea.
Of course, another reinforcer to my belief that I could not do math, never could, never will, was the extra-reinforcing practice of passing my paper to the person sitting in front of me to mark.
This was the chance to share with my classmates, I couldn’t do math, never could, never would be able to.  Some of the kids started writing, “YOU SUCK ” on my paper.  This led to me one upping them and me just writing, “I SUCK,” everyday on my math paper.
I don’t know why the teachers thought Mad Minute helped me in math.  It didn’t improve my math, at all.  It did however reinforce everyday that I was not good in math, couldn’t be the fastest in math, never was, never would be, and I was only six years old. The irony of it all was that I could do math, just not under pressure in a situation that pitted me against the clock and against my peers.
Another torturous part of MAD MINUTE, was the practice of allowing all the students who had 100% each day Monday – Thursday to be exempt from Mad Minutes on Friday.  So, if you didn’t feel like the outcast already, on Fridays, classmates watched me, glaringly obvious that they were good at math, and I wasn’t.  Never was, never would be.
Today, in grade 11 I am in the lowest math class.  Could this be because when I was six I learned I was not good in math, never was, never would be?  There is something to say for that daily reinforcement.  I look back on it and I know, Mad Minutes were not good for me.
I hope there are no teachers out there that continue with MAD MINUTE.  Its not good, not helpful and can have a lasting negative effect on a student.

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