I Use Worksheets & WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH!

I was going to title this “We ALL Use Worksheets!” because I think that we all probably do.  But then I didn’t want to speak for ALL of the math teachers everywhere.  But really, do we?

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this amazing online community of math teachers that I follow.  #MTBoS!!  I read their material and am often just blown away.  I read about problem based learning and project based learning and standards based grading and rich tasks and problem solving and debate and ALL OF THE THINGS.  I even read about teachers creating an entire Calculus curriculum, from scratch.  And I’m like, “Wow, I suck.”  So I steal and steal and steal.  And through all of this reading and stealing, I am inspired to work hard to create a lesson that is not only fun, but possibly educational.  And then I blog it, so I can give back.

And that is it.  I don’t blog my sucky days, obviously!  Just like I post on the rest of social media, I blog my highlights.  And even though I try really hard to make each day an amazing and engaging experience for my students, I do not do SEXY activities like Barbie Bungee or Catapult Quadratics every day.  So thank you Kate for posting  “In Defense of Unsexy”.  Because so many of my days are unsexy.

Next year we are adopting CPM.  It is a curriculum.  I have never used a math “textbook” I loved or wanted to follow each day, and I have never had an actual “curriculum”.  But when I saw that many of the CPM lessons were actually lessons I had used in the past (most often from bloggers), I was excited!  But at the same time, I felt guilty.  I felt that I was not enough if I was using a curriculum that I basically followed every day.  I felt that I was not an awesome math teacher if I was not creating (or stealing from the #MTBoS) crazy interesting lessons as much as possible.

Then a few awesome things happened to show me that I was wrong.  In my Rich Tasks morning session at TMC (Twitter Math Camp), we spent a morning analyzing how we could change a worksheet into a rich task.  Or how we could even change an existing worksheet into a rich task simply with implementation (I plan to blog about this later).  Then Peg Cagle spoke about how incredibly difficult writing curriculum was. And that there are many, many great series out there that are research based, teacher created, and teacher/student tested that teachers could use (and some were even free).  So if we are able to use one of those we should!  (And if not, we could use the lessons as a resource.)

Our TMC Keynote speaker Carl inspired us to all just #pushsend.  Many people started tweeting some variation of, “You are enough”.

Finally Sean talked about using worksheets in his Marbleslides talk.  Once home, I read Kate’s “Unsexy” post and then the expert below, from the blog of a true newbie.  Taylor will be a first year teacher this year.  Even though she has never taught (other than student teaching) she was brave enough to come to TMC.  And she was brave enough to write this.


And, the magic lives on since.

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 6.18.32 PMSince incorporating as many math teachers the #MTBoS as possible is such a giant part of my life, I am having a tough time understanding the feelings of exclusion.  I am trying.  But maybe this is a big part of it.  WE ARE ALL GOOD ENOUGH.  We are teachers for goodness sake.  We are MATH teachers, who chose to be here because we want to teach math to kids.  We are all trying our hardest.  We are working hard to get better everyday.  It is ok most days are unsexy.  In fact, it is great.



Unsexy Julie

7 thoughts on “I Use Worksheets & WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH!

  1. I love this post, Julie. I also love the title.

    YES. I use worksheets. And not just because I’m human, and because we can’t be wildly creative everyday…

    …but also because worksheets are good for learning! They’re practice activities, right? Isn’t practice good for learning? I’m even surprised to find how much my kids really love this sort of practice — a well-timed Kuta Software sheet is something I can count on students enjoying. It’s a chance for them to flex their muscles and show what they’ve accomplished, without feeling too easy. (Of course, if kids aren’t yet accomplished with the skill or concept then the worksheet will be a drag. We shouldn’t do that.)

    Anyway, thanks for defending the unsexy. I hope we can get back to talking even more about the unsexy in MTBoS spaces.

    • Michael,
      Thank you for this great comment, you added an important perspective. In my morning session, Peg Cagle showed us how to make a worksheet better not by changing the worksheet, but by implementation. Just because it is a worksheet does not mean it is bad, and can even be framed in a way to make it a rich task! I hope to post all about what I learned from her soon. 🙂

  2. Julie, well said. I use a lot of structured activities in my classroom. And most are implemented by ::gasp:: “worksheets.” Yet, these activities are rich tasks/problems, guided by questions that I would ask verbally if we were doing it as a whole group. The advantage of implementation in a “worksheet” form is that students are equipped with things to do right away, questions are self-guiding, I can circulate and chat with small groups as others are working, and students spend less time recording information and questions. In a nutshell, it’s an efficient and effective way to conduct an activity.

    • This is often what I do as well. Also, students will go through a Desmos AB, but not take any notes and thus not have a record of what they discovered to go back to later. So I have been making worksheets to go with their Activity Builder activities. Also, if you look at my 180 blog, I have a worksheet with almost every activity to help guide students or give them a place to record. As a math person, I love writing math down on paper, and worksheets can help my students organize their work. My 180 blog from 2 years ago: https://180algebra2.wordpress.com/

  3. I couldn’t agree more with Peg’s comment on the difficulty of writing curriculum. Our middle school math department was charged with writing our 6-8 curriculum when the common core first came out. At the time we thought a textbook purchase would be no more than a re-packaged common core resource. While unpacking the standards, creating lessons and assessments have been immensely helpful, we are not curriculum writers and unfortunately have found and filled gaps in our personal “product”. I ask myself, “Would you make the literature curriculum writing committee create a novel to teach the literary elements or reading strategies?”

    The textbook is a RESOURCE, it is not the curriculum. But the supplementary resources it provides (i.e. differentiated worksheets) allows the student the opportunity to practice and allows the teacher spend time what (s)he does best…teach.

  4. Worksheets aren’t all bad. Just like all card sorts aren’t all good. I think it is how the activity is implemented that the power exists. You are enough and your defense of the less than sexy is commendable. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this

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