Saturday, March 30, 2019

What is the role of practice in the math classroom?

On April 11th I'll lead a math conversation about the topic of practice at the spring ATMIM conference. I'm interested in this topic because I know that students don't deepen and master math skills, concepts, and knowledge without apt practice, but what is apt practice--what does that mean to those who teach math?

My experience demonstrates to me that children profit from a variety of practice types and times--for some, they need a fair amount of repetition and good time to learn a skill, concept, or knowledge point, and for others, they seem to grasp the information with only a few repetitions and little time. Why the differential?

There are many reasons for that. One reason is vocabulary--some children are familiar with the words related to a concept and some children are not. This could be a variable related to first language, reading habits/ability, experience with related concepts, and previous exposure to the concept.

Children who come from "math homes" - homes that emphasize math reading, talk, play, and games often grasp math concepts with greater ease, and generally children who come to school ready to learn more easily follow the learning pacing. Students who for any array of reasons have trouble learning from the early day of school, may have more challenge and need more time to master a concept, skill, or knowledge in math class.

With all of this in mind, I'm curious how math teachers think and act on the topic of practice--what do they do to promote apt practice as a way for their students to reach proficiency with math standards and expectations?

These are the questions we'll discuss?

  1. How much time does the average student engage in teacher-directed (classroom teacher or specialist teacher) math study each week?
  2. How much time is spent introducing a new topic?
  3. How much time is spent engaging in project work?
  4. How much time is spent with math conversation?
  5. How much time is spent practicing concepts introduced?
  6. What kinds of practice are most effective and why?
  7. What role do families play with regard to students and math practice?
  8. How do you provide extra support for students who do not have at-home academic support?
  9. Thinking big, how might we re-make the math classroom/program to provide better opportunities for practice?
I am looking forward to this conversation as I believe it will help me and others to establish better practice opportunities for all students which will lead to greater math engagement and success.