One thing that we all know to be true is that "real world" math doesn't show up on a page with 12 problems! Our job as teachers is to prepare students to solve ANY problem that comes their way! As we start a new school year, setting a climate for problem solving can set the stage for a year where students are willing to dig in and use their math skills no matter WHAT the circumstances.
To get the year started, there are a few phrases that I like to introduce to my students and then reinforce all year long--words that help set the tone for the kind of "math learning" I want to happen all year long. See what you think!
One of the biggest things I have noticed over the years is that many students have a very real fear of being wrong. This fear keeps them from participating, keeps them from enjoying math, and--worst of all--keeps them from learning! In the first weeks of school, I push my students to take risks. I give them impossible problems. We work in pairs. We solve problems that have countless answers--and I encourage them to find answers that no one else will find. Throughout all this, I highlight students and teams that have showcased risk taking--even if their answers aren't correct!
I even share a few quotes about taking risks and we talk about real life experiences they have had where taking a risk paid off! If you want a copy of these "take a risk" quotation posters, click here!
Another idea that I stress with my students is that they need to always be ready to revise their own thinking! I had a super fun lesson where we debated about whether or not certain shapes were rectangles. Some students were SO rigid in their thinking that they were unable to take in new ideas from others and revise their own understanding about the concept. If you want to read more about this lesson, CLICK HERE to see it!
This, of course, directly relates to my NEXT phrase--"critique thinking". I always want my students thinking about what they hear, evaluating if it makes sense, and then offering up their own ideas in a polite, constructive way. This was a HUGE part of the rectangle lesson and many other similar lessons. Students need to learn how to offer up their critiques in a productive way--and this is all a part of creating that climate for risk taking and problem solving.
Another phrase I teach my students early in the school year is "justify your answer". Students know that saying "I just knew it!" won't get them very far--and that they need to learn to use math language to explain their thinking to others. Other students should be able ask questions requesting clarification as well. The discussions are just fascinating! At the beginning of the year, I need to step in as a coach, but as the year unfolds, the discussions run themselves!
Finally, my favorite. Perseverance. Without this, nothing else matter! From the first day of school, I stress with my students how important it is to be willing to dig in and WORK HARD. We talk about how to ask for help--but only after really giving it a good try. We talk about how to "help" each other by coaching and not giving answers. We talk about how GOOD it feels to take on a challenging problem--and to work through it. We talk about how the PROCESS of doing math is more important than the answer (at times)...and to be willing to dig in and try will pay off in the end. I deliberately present my students with problems that are challenging to help them learn how to navigate this uncomfortable feeling...and how to help each other with the math--and with encouragement.
If you teach intermediate grades, I have a freebie all about perseverance if you are interested! It gives a little more information plus a challenging problem for you to present to YOUR class to see how well they can persevere. I have a full resource related to this as well with additional problems to use to help teach perseverance if you are interested. Just click the "Persevere" sign above. Want to try the freebie? Click the image below.
Thanks so much for joining me for my first post here at Primary Chalkboard!
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