How was Sticky Math Born?
by David Mattoon
As I related a story to Derek Rouch, a fellow math aficionado, I grabbed two stickies to record the two different representations of the mathematics. I often grab the nearest scratch paper or whiteboard as I am explaining mathematics to establish a visual connection to what I am saying.
I explained, “Tell me what each of these symbols mean [on the right sticky], using only this picture [on the left sticky].”:
When I finished, Derek exclaimed, “Oh, Sticky Math!” We both stopped in our tracks considering the implications of what he had just said. We both looked at one another with the realization that we were on to something so simple yet so profound.
You see, with Sticky Math, understanding becomes the task at hand rather than a goal I hope to reach through some long winded instruction to which I am often prone. Connections necessary for the retention of information are the task rather than a goal I hope students internalize. When used as a warmup, Sticky Math can be a valuable source of interleaved practice, which has been proven very effective in aiding retention.
We believe using Sticky Math will improve procedural fluency as students learn what the procedure does as opposed to only what the procedure is. As mentioned previously, we also believe it has the chance to build students’ mathematical agency, authority, and identity as they begin to interpret mathematics for themselves.
By often providing the mathematics, students’ working memories are freed up to make meaning and connections. It also acts as formative assessment for teacher and student, providing a source of self-assessment and reflection for students.
Sticky Math provides opportunities for students to participate in mathematical discourse and use content specific, academic vocabulary. It provides students with an opportunity to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others along with many other Standards for Mathematical Practice.
Sticky Math can be a quick easy way to bring conceptual understanding into the classroom as students connect mathematical representations, one of NCTM’s eight Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices. In fact, Sticky Math fulfills elements of all eight of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.
Finally, Sticky Math can be a source of professional development as teachers learn to teach conceptually through multiple representations. It is short, incremental professional development that can be implemented immediately. Likewise, this immediacy applies to results as teachers can assess the understanding of their students and reflect on their own implementation & facilitation of the process.
We hope you join the Sticky Math movement, and maybe even consider becoming a contributor. You can do so by clicking here. We would love to see what you are doing with Sticky Math and hear what connections your students are making.
David Mattoon is the District Secondary Math TOSA for Hemet Unified School District in Hemet, California. He did his undergraduate work at University of California at San Diego and Azusa Pacific University. He has a Masters of Education in Math, Science, and Educational Technology for Diverse Learners from California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM). He also holds both teaching and administrative credentials from CSUSM. He is a frequent presenter for the California Mathematics Council and its local affiliates, and he provides professional development and coaching for public and private institutions including St. John’s Lutheran Schools and Diocese of San Bernardino. Dave presents on other topics as well, which can be accessed through our sister website Meaning4Memory.com.
Derek Rouch is the Educational Technology Administrator for Hemet Unified School District in Hemet, California.