Amanda Nixon

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Fifth grade, Riverwood Elementary School, Shelby County Schools

Most of Amanda Nixon’s students enter her class either loving or hating math.

Those who hate math are students who typically say that they just don’t get it. But Ms. Nixon has a solution for them – or rather, many solutions.

“I work to build every child’s confidence in math by allowing and encouraging them to explore different solution paths,” she explains, “Math is often taught as a set of procedures, which does not provide an opportunity for different learners or different levels of math learners. I have differentiated activities for each math lesson.”

By working in groups and empowering her students to present, explain, and dispute different ways of finding the right answer, she engages her class and helps them learn more.

But student engagement doesn’t stop here. Ms. Nixon asks her students to assess themselves before and after covering a topic. Students can rank themselves from novice to expert in their mastery of that specific area of study. Student self-assessment allows Ms. Nixon to reflect on her teaching, but it also has a benefit for her students.

“It encourages students to be reflective about their own learning. They give more thought to their learning outcomes and therefore, take responsibility for their learning,” she says.

And by the end of the year in Ms. Nixon’s class, barely any students claim they hate math.

Bio: Amanda Nixon, who holds a master’s degree in education from Union University, has been a teacher for 12 years. She is a 2015-16 Tennessee Educator Fellows, a 2013 CORE Coach, and she wrote the social studies curriculum for Shelby County Schools in 2014. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys reading, playing board games, solving puzzles, logic games, and Sudoku. You can follow her on Twitter at @nixonamandaj.

The SCORE Sheet is the online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee and is hosted by SCORE. The blog mirrors SCORE’s collaborative nature and features contributors from Tennessee and across the country including students, parents, teachers, policymakers, community groups, and members of SCORE’s team. Regardless of perspective, contributors share a common goal: that every child graduates from high school prepared for college or the workforce.

Posts on The SCORE Sheet are the opinions of the individual contributors and are not necessarily reflective of the opinions and positions of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).