CASE Webinar Strategies to Motivate Students to Learn Math with Dr. Jordan B Smith Jr.
Educators must motivate and employ creative strategies, as discussed in the CASE webinar below with Dr. Jordan B Smith Jr., its time to make math an engaging and rewarding learning journey. Mathematics can evoke varied student emotions, with some finding it intriguing and others struggling.
In a world where perseverance and dedication define greatness, Dr. Jordan B Smith Jr.’s story stands as a testament to the power of passion and service. Graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1976, he embarked on a distinguished 20-year career as a Marine Corps veteran, serving his country with unwavering commitment. However, his journey did not end there. Driven by a profound love for education and a desire to make a difference, he transitioned into the world of teaching mathematics. For two decades, he has nurtured young minds, instilling in them the magic of numbers and the beauty of learning. His educational journey led him to pursue a Master’s in Secondary Education from UOPX, followed by a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction, from the same institution. Dr. Smith’s expertise in teaching mathematics extends even further, as he earned a Master’s in Administration and a Service Credential from UOPX. His true calling lies in reaching out to those who have lost hope in learning math, inspiring them to believe in their abilities and find joy in conquering the subject.
Math Learning Obstacles at his school
In the bustling classroom of Dr. Jordan Smith Jr. at San Jacinto Unified School District in California, students with diverse academic journeys find solace and support. These young minds walk in with a crucial goal: to earn 20 to 30 math credits for their graduation. However, the journey ahead seems daunting as they battle against a lack of motivation and self-doubt in their ability to learn. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated their struggles, adding to the trauma they faced at home, where some had lost loved ones or endured difficult relationships with past teachers.
The challenge becomes even more intense as 11th-grade students, having joined Dr. Smith’s classroom just months before, must suddenly gear up for the state test, mirroring the expectations of their peers in traditional high schools. However, amidst all the obstacles, the unwavering determination of Dr. Jordan Smith shines through. His passion for teaching and belief in his students’ potential fuel an environment of encouragement and growth.
In 2023, the school adds CSI (Comprehensive Support and Improvement) and ATSI (Additional Targeted Support and Improvement) to their efforts, further enhancing the support system for every student. Dr. Smith spearheads these initiatives, aiming to cultivate a truly supportive and enriching environment where every young mind can thrive.
Reflecting upon the collective progress from 2014 to 2019, this educational community celebrates their enduring spirit, committed to empowering these young minds and transforming challenges into opportunities for growth. Dr. Jordan Smith’s dedication to teaching math and inspiring students is nothing short of awe-inspiring, earning him recognition as the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year on May 9, 2023. His impact extends far beyond the classroom, shaping futures and leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all those fortunate enough to be a part of his educational journey. As we witness the transformation of once-disheartened students into confident learners, we can only marvel at the profound influence of an exceptional educator like Dr. Jordan Smith Jr.
Unleashing the Power of Innovation
In Dr. Jordan Smith Jr.’s relentless pursuit of better teaching strategies, he acknowledged that some past efforts did not yield the desired results. District diagnostic testing conducted twice a year, as well as online curriculum without direct instruction, failed to effectively engage students with varying learning needs and deficiencies. Close reading and thinking maps also fell short of connecting with the students in the traditional education model. However, Dr. Smith and his team were undeterred and ventured into innovative approaches, such as hosting math fun days and musicology sessions to spark enthusiasm for math among students.
Realizing that engagement was the key to unlocking student potential, Dr. Smith’s team focused on revamping their teaching methods. In 2021, they implemented direct instruction for the S back (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test, tailored to enhance student performance without limiting the educational experience to “teaching to the test.” Math fun days proved to be a breakthrough, engaging students in interactive math games that not only changed their attitudes toward math but also made learning enjoyable with a sense of purpose.
Addressing the fear of word problems, Dr. Smith devised engaging strategies to introduce close reading and build students’ confidence in tackling challenging math concepts. These efforts contributed to significant academic growth, with both math and language arts achieving 33-point gains in 2021.
Looking ahead to 2023, Dr. Jordan Smith faces a new challenge. Traditional teaching paths could risk leaving 11th-grade students confined to math one and math two without exposure to essential content. However, Dr. Smith’s commitment to innovation and creativity suggests that he will continue to explore alternative solutions to ensure his students receive a comprehensive and engaging education, one that empowers them to embrace math and pursue their academic aspirations with confidence. As the years go by, Dr. Smith’s unyielding dedication to his students and passion for teaching stand as a shining example of the transformative impact an exceptional educator can have on young minds.
A Teacher’s Journey in Fostering Discourse
Driven by his love for teaching, he decided to put his insights into words, authoring a book that lays out 11 key strategies for student engagement and learning, with a primary focus on math.
Central to his teaching philosophy is the notion of motivating students to actively engage in math discourse. Instead of simply imparting knowledge, he encourages his students to write about math, fostering a space where discussions about mathematical concepts flourish. Recognizing that mistake anxiety can be a significant roadblock for students, he emphasizes the importance of creating an environment where making mistakes is encouraged and even celebrated. By instilling a growth mindset in his students, he empowers them to embrace challenges and view errors as opportunities for growth and learning.
Dr. Smith firmly believes that building confidence in his students is a key factor in nurturing their mathematical abilities. Through a thoughtful approach to teaching and constant encouragement, he ensures that his classroom becomes a safe space where students feel capable and supported.
As he reflects on his teaching journey, one solution stands out as the most effective: student motivation and engagement. Dr. Smith understands that for students to truly excel in math, they must feel motivated to actively participate in class discussions and to take ownership of their learning. By sparking enthusiasm for math and creating a collaborative learning environment, he has witnessed remarkable transformations in his students’ attitudes toward the subject.
In a world where many students may shy away from math, Dr. Jordan Smith Jr.’s commitment to fostering discourse and empowering his students serves as a shining example of how impactful teaching can cultivate not only mathematical proficiency but also the confidence and passion needed to tackle any challenge that lies ahead.