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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

School Moments You Treasure: Math Debate

The moments a teacher treasures in school are not what many would think. For example, a few days ago a little girl was curled up in a pink umbrella chair with a good picture book. She was entranced with the book. I treasured that moment.

Another little girl led a group of kindergartners with joy and heart, another treasured moment.

A boy proudly rode his bike in circles at the end of the day on the playground--he was so proud of his strength and agility. Other children happily chased him. A joyful moment.

A typically rambunctious boy, calmly came up to me and asked his first serious question for clarification on an assignment--a first sign of self-advocacy! I was overjoyed.

Then yesterday two young girls came to me with a math problem. They had taken different approaches and solutions to the problem on the right. I sent them back to debate their solutions with one another to try to figure out whose solution was correct. They returned a while later saying that their answers were different and they couldn't figure out who was right and who was wrong.

I enlisted the support of a number of other mathematicians, and everyone puzzled over the problem. I couldn't give it my full attention as I was leading a large group of students on another task so I promised I would go home and figure it out, and we could talk the next day.

Last night, I played with the problem, and in the quiet of my home I figured out where the girls had gone right and wrong with the problem. Today, I'll make some time to talk with them about it. What made this a treasured moment was that the girls were excited enough about the problem that they wanted to talk to each other about it, and then they wanted to talk to me about it. The excitement caught on and several other children puzzled over the strategy and conclusion. I exclaimed, "This is fun!" and they agreed. It's what we hope for in the math classroom, and the challenge is to find more opportunities for exciting math problem solving and debate like this. Onward.