3 attributes of effective learning guardians

In order for a student to reach their potential in becoming a true mathematician, we need to ensure they have a learning guardian not only in the classroom, but outside of school as well. A learning guardian is someone who can ignite a level of curiosity in the student and personalize their learning. The learning guardian can be a parent, sibling, relative, or even a close friend. There are three critical attributes needed to meet this integral personalized learning support system.

1) Provide consistent opportunities to discuss and analyze what they are learning in class.

In order to do this, the learning guardians need to stay up- to-date on what the class is currently doing to better personalize learning. Set aside a 10-15 minute block to have a rich in-depth conversation about not only “what” they are studying, but “how” it works and “where” can it be applied or utilized.

2) Make meaningful connections from the learning to their everyday life experiences.

Meaningful connections are dependent on the learner. For example, I remember attempting to write a story problem in class that involved adding negative and positive integers. I wrote a problem that referenced football: “The quarterback was tackled for a 7 yard sack on first down on the 25 yard line”. I had a tremendous amount of 7th graders that were asking what a “sack” was and what does “first down” have to do with the math problem. There were other students that completely understood the context. An effective learning guardian will utilize the student’s everyday interests to further personalize the student’s learning experience. The depth of understanding will increase tremendously by connecting math to their real lives.

3) Avoid assessing in absolutes.

Promote an environment of ambiguity which allows the student to navigate their own sense making of mathematical concepts. When your student provides an answer, avoid saying “that’s right” or “that’s wrong.” Developing a mathematical mind is not only about getting the answer correct. It is about explaining their reasoning as to how they reached that conclusion. The rationale is where the true evidence of learning can be found, not in the answer itself.

Learning guardians are a great way to integrate more players in a student’s learning. Teachers are usually the first level of a learning guardian. The more guardians you can help build and provide to the students, the more growth a student can make. Learning is not just a teacher and a student. It is a complex system of “teachers” in various forms, such as parents or siblings. We are all each other’s teachers —and we’re all here to learn!

Do you know a learning guardian that is making a real difference? Share at

David Woods

Husband | Dog Owner | Math Teacher for 8 years | Curriculum Designer | Cubs Fan | MA of Integrating Technology in the Classroom, Walden University | Redmond, WA

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