As many of you know, my goal for my Annual Learning Plan was to improve my math instruction by incorporating more problem-solving into math. For a while now, I’ve been sharing my learning journey as I try, and fail, and try again with this goal of mine. While I continue to notice my own areas of weakness, I also know that my students are becoming much better math problem-solvers. They are really explaining their thinking in math, and not just focusing on the answer, but focusing on how they know the answer. All of my students are showing progress!
What I especially love though are the unexpected surprises: I’m getting better at asking questions in all areas of the curriculum and the students are getting better at answering them. I especially noticed this last week during various science activities. Last week, the Grade 2 students had to make a toy that floated on water. The student in the video below was one of the first ones done, and while his toy floated, it also turned over. The toy still met the project requirements, but instead of just being happy enough with this, I got this student to rethink his design, make changes to the toy, and eventually get it to float upright.
In the past, my focus was always on the final product: did the students accomplish what was expected or did they not? This new math focus though has made me realize the value of the process over the product. I’ve taken the time to stop, to question students, to encourage them to think, create, try, and fail, and then, instead of becoming frustrated, to try again. My Grade 1 and 2 students are doing more than I ever thought possible, and the language that they’re using as they show their thinking, continues to amaze me.
I’m by no means perfect. I still need to give more wait time. I still need to sometimes question less, and let students figure out more on their own. But I realize this now, and I’m more cognizant of what I say and how I say it. A special thank you to our incredible math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, that continues to push my thinking every day with her questions, comments, and suggestions. Thanks to you, I’m not just becoming a better math teacher, but a better teacher!
How has focusing on math in your classroom made you a better teacher? I’d love to hear your stories too!
We have also made math more of a focus in our SK classroom this year. My partner (an ECE) and I are trying to incorporate the 3-Part Problem Solving in our large group and small group centres in the classroom. We are a Full Day Kindergarten Program. So far, we have done 4 whole group lessons and the children are learning to be “Math Thinkers”. So far, so good! I also hope that these lessons will help in other areas of the curriculum and I will eventually be able to release the responsibility to small groups and hopefully to partner problem solving before the end of the year. We are looking forward to see where things take us by June!
Thanks for sharing, Meredith! I’d be interested in knowing how it goes throughout the year. If students can learn to share their thinking in math beginning in Kindergarten, I can just imagine what they can do as they move up the grades.
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