Field Notes at Math Classroom

Field Notes at Math Classroom




In this research paper, I am going to present my views and observations about Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) mathematics class. GPA works in partnership with UCSD to offering a rigorous program of instructions to high school college education in order to prepare students for college education. The core foundations upon which this school is founded made me curious and wanted to learn about some few issues. My main concern was a mathematics class, a field in which I had prior issues to deal with and a few questions I wanted answers on.

As noted in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, mathematical classrooms have been envisioned for reform and this reform movement is underway. Students not only develop competency in computation skills in a mathematical class, but they are also destined to obtaining mathematical reasoning and its application. For students to meet the standards of NCTM mathematical discourse, they not only need to discuss their mathematical reasoning with their teacher on a regular basis but they should also endeavor to back their reasoning with the relevant basis; both in mathematical discourse and in writing. The question that lingers always in my mind is whether teachers believe in reform-based method of teaching or traditional method? At GPA, I go to one class and the teacher there explained to me that she believed the reform-based method is very effective as compared to the traditional method.

Statistics from various available research studiers agree that quality mathematical classes for high school students can only be accomplished by a highly trained teacher.

While in the classroom at GPA, I get an opportunity to observe a mixture of both the teacher’s knowledge of the subject and teaching method. I also notice some examples of reform-based method of teaching, teaching methods of the teacher and student’s engagement and behavior to the subject. While I am still seated, some road blocks seem to be apparent to me. Together with raising these road blocks, I will also raise some of the questions regarding the long-term effects of the teaching methods of this teacher. This research paper focuses several issues that are observed in one class at GPA and I will attempt to give an insight into what defines mathematical lessons in our contemporary high schools.

Research Methods

Research Context

This research paper is a collection of notes taken during my five different visits to GPA mathematical classroom, in a two-week period of time. This research report is based on notes taken during five separate visits to a local high school mathematical classroom, over a two-week time period. During my time here, I observe one teacher known as Ms. Kinney and I should observe either algebra or college geometry class. Because my objective is to observe a more mature class, I decide to observe the college geometry class. I decide not to interact with students and I choose to remain as inconspicuous as much as possible. The class consists of 20 students and takes 45 minutes. I realize that Ms. Kinney teaches the class most of the time, but I also realize that she is also helped by Mr. Jones occasionally. I am interested mostly in quadrilaterals.

Researcher’s Expectations

Before beginning my observation, I have my own expectations about this class and the teacher. I expect a well-behave class, I expect the teacher to at least discipline indiscipline students, I also expect the teacher to challenge students on their knowledge about the subject and finally I expect the class lesson to follow this sequence: collection of homework, taking of class notes by students, and assignment to be given for the next day.

Data Collection and Analysis

I decide to use field observation method. I am right in the class and take a seat to the back much earlier than any student. I record everything about Ms. Kinney’s teaching style and the students’ responses to her teaching style.


I think being a college student observing high school students, many of the actions could be done to catch my attention

Another limitation is that I myself have never been a teacher and therefore my conclusions may not be appropriate.


Teaching reform vs. traditional-based math

As an observer in this classroom, I believe that Ms. Kinney’s goal is to use a reform-based method of teaching. At some point, she tells me” I will do anything to see my students as interacting more possible than seeing them asleep while I am in class”. Occasionally, I observe Ms. Kinney use reform-based method but she almost immediately reverts back to her traditional method.

Student Comprehension

I get a general sense that most of the students in this class are not very conversant with mathematics. I realize that most of the time here students are learning about features of quadrilaterals.

Student Behavior

I observe that each class uses most of its time to calm down students who are making noise. Suddenly the class is very noise and I see Ms. Kinney say this, “all class put your head on the desk”. While at this state, she continues, “I know you are good students and if you listen carefully, you will pass your exams and become prominent people in future. After this period, I will teach you shortly and then give you time to talk”.  After here, all the students are calm but I observe that Ms. Kinney’s method of calming them has taken 15 minutes.

Student Engagement

I also notice that most of the students in this class are not as engaged as they are taught in a mathematical class. Every time Ms. Kinney puts up a warm up practice question, most students just write and wait for the Mr. Kinney to give the answer or perhaps another student to provide an answer.  While waiting for the answers, the students keep on talking to their friends on different issues that are not related to the topic at hand.


Several questions came up after my observation: would a reform-based method have worked to this particular class? Were these students immature to handle the questions presented to them by Ms. Kinney? Another concern in this Kinney class is about this students who are about to enter college but then cannot be able to fully handle some simple geometry.

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