The Voice Approach to Teaching Math

I use The Voice approach toward self-evaluation. On the show, contestants perform at least one song every week and they are either kept or let go. On any given episode a contestant will have a “breakout” performance where they really have an awesome act. At this point the audience thinks, “Wow, that was great!!! They are going to win!!!” But after watching the show for many seasons, that is rarely the case. The people that usually win get a little better each week until they have their best performance of the season during the finale. 

The vast majority of my students have never had a true CPM math experience. While a teacher might have put them in teams occasionally, it was usually just for show and not an effective teamwork approach to discovery learning. In fact, chances are the vast majority of my students have never had to productively struggle in a math class. So in the first couple of weeks, my “breakout” performers are the ones that shoot their hands up every time because they came into class with some previous knowledge; the rest try to disappear because they have been convinced that they can’t do math. As the weeks go by, students begin to find success working in a team and the engagement level rises; I see this dynamic shift in not just a few students but classes as a whole. The ultimate goals are to learn more math and have their best performance when they take the SBAC (California’s state assessment) in the spring.

The way my students experience academic growth is kind of like The Voice as well. On The Voice, a singer’s first performance is usually just them standing at the mic with a karaoke track. As the weeks go by, contestants get additional training, have more complicated performances, and benefit from added rehearsal time with the band and coaches. Even if they aren’t the winner, everyone grows and thus wins with the experience. In my class we start off being introduced to teams and discovery learning by doing a week of Jo Boaler’s Inspirational Math. Then, as we begin CPM, I add on the math games. This becomes the vehicle for adding learning experiences, like weekly reflections, learning logs, math talks, team-building exercises, graffiti sheets, the 3-read strategy, etc. As each week passes and another layer is added, my students become better teammates and in turn better mathematicians. It doesn’t matter how my students begin my class or the struggles we have along the way. What really matters is how they leave.

Leave a Reply