What’s wrong with students in school these days? They give up when things get difficult. They quit when they come across obstacles or when they start to get discouraged. They don’t persist in anything. They want the easy way out. Nonsense! Just watch them use technology (Nintendo, Wii, Xbox) and you’ll see they can be engaged and challenged for long periods of time despite difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement.
Through those technology experiences students struggle, yet they persist. They’re engaged in the learning. They make sense of the situation and develop, carry out, and refine a plan. They monitor their progress and reason through the situation making sense of and using strategies and tools. What students experience are the habits of mind described in the Standards for Mathematical Practices.
The eight Standards for Mathematical Practices are the variety of skills and knowledge that teachers at all levels should seek to develop in their students. The Standards for Mathematical Practices describe how math should be taught. One standard in particular calls for students to ‘Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them’. It means that students need relevant problems to solve, sometimes challenging. They need that productive struggle where they encounter problems that are slightly beyond their abilities, where there is not an immediate solution, and where they have support along the way to be successful.
Here’s what you can do to help. Provide them support. Google ‘math help video’ and the top three or four web sites listed would be good starters. Don’t tell, ask. Ask questions such as:
- What does the problem tell you? Can you describe it in your own words? Have you seen a problem like this before?
- Is there any part of the problem that you already know how to do?
- Is there anything you don’t understand? Where can you find the answers to your questions?
- What is the first thing you are going to try? What will you do next?
- How will making a chart, table, drawing, or diagram help you think through the problem?
- Is your strategy working? Why or why not?
- How do you know if your answer is right or wrong?
Area Education Agency 267 provides support to area math teachers through classes, workshops and one-on-one learning opportunities delivered by experienced consultants. The goal is to ensure that every Iowa student has the supports needed to reach his/her maximum learning potential. For more information, contact Jeff Struck, AEA 267 Consultant for Mathematics.
Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.