Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Mathematically Speaking

In education, inquiry, math, thinking on September 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Children love math. That is, when they are curious about it and succeed in their practice. I know, *that* is the difficult part: curiosity and success. How do you make sure both happen?

This post will outline some of the math we do in my classroom and I would truly appreciate teachers to question, add or comment on strategies I use.


Inquiry comes in different forms – from structured inquiry to spontaneous, it should permeate the math class. Creating an inquiry culture is hard work despite the widespread impression that it comes naturally and often with kids. The school setting itself is not conducive to curiosity – 20 or more students in the same room, lessons fractured by the bell, and the list can continue. Plus, children are *supposed to* learn in school – not a very appealing premise for wondering. Moreover, when questions arise they can be quite superficial.  That is why modeling questioning so as to become part of the class language and thinking takes time. Consistency is key.

Questions in a math class:

  • How do you know…? (by far my favorite) I gave an example here using my own students’ responses.
  • Can you give an example of…? 
  • What strategy did you use? Why is it effective? Read the rest of this entry »

Dancing Through Math Class?

In activities, education, inquiry, math, thinking on September 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

*This post is a reply to a thoughtful educator that I respect and with whom I disagree on certain education-related topics. The stir began with my tweet,


I replied to Shawn,

Dancing in a math lesson will not improve thinking. THINKING advances mathematical thinking.”

A cute “engaging” math song might energize the kids but it won’t make them better at math. Surely, “memory is the residue of thought” and it is actually the main key to thinking (see D.T. Willingham’s posts on cognition and learning), but to use dance in 2nd grade as a way to memorize subtraction facts is not the most effective way. Despite the general belief that testing is damaging, cognitive science demonstrated that testing has a far greater impact than additional study. So if you want kids to memorize their number facts (so as to give space to higher-order thinking in solving problems) instead of making them dance it is better to allow them to self-test or to test each other in pairs.

Read the rest of this entry »