Savanah Craft: Centering the math classroom around students
Updated: Apr 14
Savanah Craft, a senior team lead and a teacher in Denver’s East High School’s math department, grew up in a teaching family, but didn’t know it was for her right away. She always loved math, but struggled with it while she was a kid. A particularly passionate teacher in high school made a career in math seem like a possibility and it all clicked when she started to learn the history and reasoning behind math in college.
Savanah Craft became a teacher because she wanted to challenge the idea that some people are naturally bad at math. “That can change for a kid,” she said. “Just because you failed at math in 7th grade doesn’t mean you will fail at math forever and you could possibly even make a career out of it someday.” She herself is an example of this given her own journey from struggling math student to math teacher.
For Savanah, changing her students’ perception of their ability starts with changing their approach. She tells them to not memorize anything and she has done away with the traditional lecture in her classroom. She facilitates, but a lot of the time, she leaves it up to her students to reason their way through problems and work together to get a handle on things.
This takes the spotlight off of the short-cuts they will forget immediately after the test and gets students to think about the whys behind mathematics that inspired Savanah to become a math teacher in the first place. It lets students build their strategies from scratch and gives them a deeper understanding. Although the day to day might be more challenging for students this way, in the end, they are much more well-rounded learners. “I filter things through a lens of what my students need and not what they want,” she said.
By spending less time at the front of the classroom, Savanah can also get a better idea of how each of her students is progressing. It builds a sense of community too because she has time to get to know her students. “If I was standing and delivering math, there is literally no way I would get around to all these kids and talk to them and check on them and just learn little things about them to support them,” she said.
Another benefit of letting student discussion take center stage in the math classroom is that it helps students learn about one another and gives them an opportunity to open themselves up to other perspectives. “I want them to learn how to be good humans and how to collaborate and communicate with each other,” said Savanah. “Mistakes are easier to make in high school than when you are an adult.”
Photos courtesy of Savanah Craft