Among many consequences of the pandemic was an abrupt switch to virtual instruction coupled with feelings of isolation around mandated lockdowns. This situation pushed us to humanize our mathematics classes in ways we had not done previously. Our takeaway from this experience is that community building must be done intentionally and actively. The authors partnered with each other to explore tools for student engagement and fostering a sense of belonging.
We share our creative approach for humanizing mathematics classrooms through three tools: icebreakers for student engagement, Discord for community building, and VoiceThread for peer collaboration. Each author used different combinations of these tools to construct community-centered classroom environments. In this note, we build upon research on active learning and equitable mathematics instruction to share the benefits of each tool.
Our attempts to humanize our mathematics classrooms will have lasting effects on how we teach. We will no longer take for granted that our students feel a sense of belonging, but instead, recognize that we must deliberately cultivate an inclusive classroom community. All three tools can be applied in virtual, hybrid, and face-to-face teaching modalities.