I wrote earlier in my blog about an article I had read on “Why Americans Stink at Math” by the New York Times (you can read both the post and the article by following the blog roll to the right) and how it just may have revolutionized how I teach. Well, I’ve been continuing to use this method and I’ve stumbled upon some happy surprises. Here are a few:
Everyone’s engaged. Yep! Everyone! I ask students to work individually on each problem and I walk around. This frees me up to see who is staring into space–which rarely happens. Most students have some ideas about where to start. They also want to be ready to share something with their partner when we switch to “You all.” It’s amazing! If students are stuck, I’m freed up to ask them questions about the problem that might trigger a thought. From my Honors Pre-Calculus class to my average Geometry class–it seems to put everyone to work. During the “You All” talk time, students seem to all be talking to each other ABOUT MATH. Awesome!
Problematic thinking is head off early. Because students generate the ideas, the most common misconceptions quickly come to light during our “We” discussion. We are able to discuss each of them and why the idea might not work. In addition we tackle, as a group, the points where students get “stuck” and identify why it is a difficulty. At that point, we generate ideas to respond to the difficulty until every student is satisfied with the solution.
I facilitate, they solve. By the time we finally get to the “We” discussion, I am able to direct the discussion so that students alone are able to (1) solve the problem and satisfy student curiosity about the problem and (2) flesh out all the faulty thinking and “stuck” points.
Obviously, I’m sold. The one down side is that each problem takes longer. As a result, I’m trying to find the perfect problems that generate the discussion I want. I end up doing about 3-4 examples only. In the past I would have done 5-7, but I don’t think I had the engagement or understanding I am getting now. It’s a trade off–one that I’m convinced I should take.
Have you tried it? What do you think?