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Sunday, October 11, 2015

New Knowledge and Confidence: Teaching Math Well

I've been reading a lot about teaching math. Most of what I've been reading points to the need to deepen students' ability with regard to their mathematical understanding, expression, and problem solving in order to develop strength as they progress in the subject.

Hence, I've been embedding many new strategies and learning experiences into the math program to build vocabulary, mathematical thinking, problem solving, detailed explanations, collaboration, model making, and share. Students have responded favorably, and I've assessed the process as successful for the following reasons:
  • Students are beginning to use math vocabulary with greater depth and frequency.
  • There are many questions which no one can answer right away which means there's new learning for all.
  • There are multiple levels of questioning and work which means that everyone can partake in the new learning.
  • Children are eager to respond to the learning experiences and get up and share their thinking with the class.
  • While explanations are good, no one has complete explanations or always accurate and detailed models which demonstrates areas for which there's new learning and room for growth.
  • Only some are partaking in all that is there for the taking, so there's room for growth in that regard too.
The challenge with this new knowledge and strategies is that many still see math learning and teaching as memorization of algorithms and operations. They don't think of the deeper side of mathematical thinking, problem solving, explanations, collaboration, and model making that goes along with deeply understanding and demonstrating mathematics.  They also don't realize the substantial benefit of online learning processes to support this study. Further, they may not see the merit in revisiting earlier concepts to deepen understanding, a process that Daniel Willingham supports in his book on learning, Why Don't Students Like School.  

Yet, I don't know it all either. It takes many to craft a strong program, and it takes the constant give-and-take of the learning team including students, educators, family members, leaders, and community members to teach every child well.

Hence rather than hold my ground, I'll welcome those who want to discuss the program's strengths and needs, and together we'll work to help every child grow with depth and breadth with regard to their math education. Onward.