Week Five: Teaching Strategies-Math for All

“We’re kids. Why are we learning about taxes and overdrawn accounts? Why don’t we do problems that talk about video games or something we care about?” asked a 6th grader in my class.

Now, he had a point. They are eleven year-old students, learning percents through questions about things they don’t quite understand. Yes, they will use it later on, but maybe there is a different way to present the problem where their interests allow them to become more engaged in these types of questions.

When we first encountered the problem, I asked them to read it on their own. They all looked at me like I was crazy. They all said they couldn’t do it. After explaining what the question said and what overdrawn accounts were, 90% of the class shouted the answer. The other 10% were still trying to work through the problem. So, it wasn’t about not knowing how to go about the problem, it was that they didn’t actually know what the question was saying because they didn’t have experience with those terms.

The article we read, “Teaching Strategies for ‘Algebra for All'”, by James R Choike, was very informative and made some great points. It also gave something we could use, as in, strategies we could implement in the classroom to address certain issues.

For example, in the “eliminating distracters” portion, it spoke about how numbers and words could prevent students from approaching the problem. They might give up before starting, even if they have the skills to complete the problem. Some students, especially young students, will get caught up in the words.

Another point I liked was the multiple representations idea and being able to connect a thread through them. As individuals, we take different approaches to solving things. We like to approach problems in a way that makes sense for us. So, expecting all students to approach a problem in the same way, or in one particular way, is limiting. You may not get through to every student and their learning styles. We can reach the same answer through different mediums, and letting students explore those mediums is important. Then, you will be able to make connections between the representations.

By showing multiple representations, it might be easier to root particular concepts with the students. You can expand a simple problem by showing different approaches.

Another, not-so-surprising, point he made was about not beginning the year with remediation. I actually agree with that. There are other means to revisit topics without wasting time in the beginning, not knowing what students do and do not know. Time is precious, why waste it?

Students need to be able to grow and make their own conclusions. They will never learn if we just give them answers. They need to be able to think for themselves and experiment, making their way through unexplored waters.

At the end of the article, it talks about establishing a safe classroom environment. I think that is one of the most important points. If a student does not feel comfortable expressing their thoughts in class for fear of being ridiculed, then they won’t be able to get anywhere. If they feel like they can communicate, ask questions, and offer their thoughts, there will be a greater opportunity for learning and growth.(At least, in my opinion.) I encourage my students to ask questions, try problems, and respect one another. If they can’t do that, then we can’t move on as a unit. We can all encourage each other’s learning if given the opportunity.

This week, I read an article about when a calculator should be used, and I thought it was pretty cool that they said to let students decide for themselves when it is okay to use one.

Here it is: Calculator

I retweeted the article from a math student/teacher that posted it. I also came across this favorite math quotes tweet on twitter, and I wanted to participate…..but the quote I liked was too long, and I forgot to @ the person doing it. In all, I’m still getting used to Twitter, but it’s getting easier to navigate. I also liked a few tweets, which I thought were interesting. And my post from last week was mentioned and tweeted as well.

That’s all for Week 5! Let me know if you have any questions or ideas!