Dear Math

Days before my trip to San Antonio, my buddy Jeremiah Ruesch had tweeted about this brand new book called “Dear Math – Why Kids Hate Math and What Teachers Can Do About It.”  It’s written by Sarah Strong and one of Sarah’s students of 4 years – Gigi Butterfield.  I quickly Amazon’ed the book and brought it with me on the trip.

On the plane ride, I started reading it and felt compelled to take notes on what I was reading.  This was written by a high school teacher, but the strategies can easily be applied to elementary teachers. “Dear Math” is an insightful work about secondary students perceptions, connections and feelings towards math.  Sarah reiterates the importance of creating a positive learning environment via the use of “belongingness buddies”, daily discourse, and the Dear Math letters.  Gigi reflects at the end of each chapter from the perspective of a student in Sarah’s classroom.  I have never read anything in which the student gives his/her insight into their journey with math. 

Some points, questions, takeaways:

  • “Math is one big beautiful mess like a game of Chutes and Ladders”
  • Math should be visual and about storytelling. 
  • “We are at out best when we empower our students to feel purposeful for learning math.” 
  • How do we overcome the “dreadful” factor –feelings or math in a negative sense?
  • The need to get rid of the math hierarchy = those who finish 1st get rewarded. 
  • When we create an environment where students are intimidated, we are getting far from the best of them.
  • Intimidation leads to low performance.  Math and teachers hold power–hence math anxiety.
  • Daily math discourse can combat intimidation.
  • Are grades and assessments causing oppression?  Test for growth (fluid, guiding, celebratory) versus punitive?

I truly recommend this to any teacher.  High school math is difficult enough, but to take on the social-emotional aspect of math is noble.

Until next time,




  1. Thank you for the tips on supporting positive perceptions of maths in the classroom! Your point on ‘those who finish first get rewarded’ was really thought-provoking. So often teachers unintentionally set harmful standards. This is something to think about and act on.

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