Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mrs. Nataro's Postulates of Learning

This year I have set a goal to post to my blog twice a month.  Thanks to the blog prompts at Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere I may meet this goal for the next 2 months.  For this blog, I have decided to address the following:

What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? 

Here is what makes my classroom unique to me:

About 10 years ago, I was writing my opening letter to parents and students and came up with the idea of Mrs. Nataro's Postulates of Learning.  I wanted students and parents to know what I personally believed about learning mathematics in my classroom.  These postulates are also prominently displayed in my classroom.  Here are my five postulates:

1)  All students are capable of learning math.

2)  The use of prior skills and knowledge is required to build new skills and knowledge.

3)   Learning is a collaborative effort.  Helping others learn will help you to learn.

4)  Asking thoughtful questions is a primary way to open your mind to learning.

5)   Choosing not to do an assignment will rob you of the opportunity to learn.

These postulates really do guide my teaching and what happens in my classroom.  First, I really do believe that all students are capable of learning math.  Once the student believes this of himself or herself progress can be made more easily.  The second postulate may seem obvious, but many times students start to have difficulty in math because of a misconception or shaky foundational knowledge.

The third and fourth postulates can be seen in action on a daily basis in my classroom.  Students quickly come to learn that I want them to work together on assignments.  Sometimes they are randomly assigned peers for a specific project and other times I have them compare work with their neighbors.  After I help a student with a problem, I have them explain the solution to one of their peers.  At first students think this is a little strange.  However, they soon see that they really do understand better after explaining an idea to someone else.  In addition to working together, students are not afraid to ask questions.  I encourage questions with phrases like "I am really glad you asked that question." or "That is something I hadn't thought about.  What an interesting question."  I often find myself sharing the questions that my first period class had with my second and sixth period classes.  The questions are that good and I want all my students to benefit from them.

For the fifth postulate, students quickly see that my assignments aren't "busy work" and that they really are an opportunity to learn more.  If a student doesn't have an assignment completely done on the day it is due, he or she still does the assignment to show to me, even when a point or two is deducted for the assignment being late.

As we review my postulates in class on the first day of school, I point out that these postulates are about learning in general.  And I encourage my students to apply them to any subject they are studying.


  1. Cool! I may have to "borrow" your postulates!

  2. I love your postulates! It is a unique and clever way to share your teaching philosophy. Have you found an improvement with homework completion or with the quality of homework?

  3. I particularly like that you've set these as postulates, so we must accept them without question. I've made use of your first postulate, although I often face resistance from both students and some other educators.

  4. Thanks for the comments! I don't know if there is an improvement with the quality of the homework. I think that is related to a student taking pride in his or her work in general. However, I think there is a higher homework completion rate, because they know this is something that matters to me and that I check to make sure it is done. I once taught pre-algebra to 10th and 11th grade students and they always had their homework done. When I asked why, I was told that I was the only teacher they had that assigned homework and expected them to do it. When we have reasonable and high expectations for our students and hold them accountable, they will do the work!