I’ve been able to check off a few books on my summer reading list. I’m now in the process of reading one book in particular. It’s been a slow process through this book, but worthwhile as I’m actually thinking of how this applies to my practice. That takes time. Yesterday, I was on a reading tear and made it through chapter seven. This is where I ended up paying most of my attention. The chapter is related to asking questions in the math classroom.
In the eyes of most students, questions are often given to them, not something that they get to ask other students or even the teacher. The ratio of questions they’re required to answer far outweighs what they ask. I’m not arguing that there’s something wrong with that ratio, but Tracy and others in this chapter make a case to why educators should allow more opportunities for students to ask, wonder, and notice. I think there’s value in providing these opportunities, although the management involved in that process seems challenging at times. While reading, I came across a terrific quote by Christopher.
One of the bigger issues is the last highlighted sentence: “Quit before angering child.” When I read this I actually laughed out loud and then started to realize how often this happens in the classroom. Ideally, all students would be willing to make a claim, be receptive to what others have to say and then change their claim accordingly. Some students are much more willing to engage in this type of math dialogue, while others would rather not. There are different activities and procedures that can help move students towards being more receptive to asking questions during claim dialogues. Notice and Wonder, 101questions, problem posing, riffing off problems and independent study options can help students ask more questions and encourage them to be a bit more curious. That curiosity can spur students to ask more questions. All of those are great resources, but there’s an important piece that needs to be put in place beforehand. I believe Scott makes a great point.
Each child has their own tolerance for struggle. That struggle can turn into frustration quicker for some more than others. This happens with children and adults. I think most educators have been in situations where a student makes a claim and then retracts it after its been shown that their response wasn’t quite right. That student then disengages and it’s challenging to get them to be assertive afterwards. How can this be avoided or is it possible to avoid these types of situations? I don’t know the exact answer to this, but understanding the level in which a student can struggle without frustration is important. Struggle is part of what happens in any math class. That productive struggle is what’s often needed before students construct their own mathematical understanding.
Enabling students with tools and models can help in these struggling situations. I’ve also seen this struggle occur during whole class guided math conversations. Some students shut down when they are called out by another student. They think that disagreement means that they’re being challenged or attacked. That’s not the intention, but it may be perceived that way by other students. It may be helpful to model what appropriate math dialogue looks like. After the modeling, practicing that type of math claim dialogue and providing opportunities for questions can help smooth out the process.
I also believe some students are not used to making a claim in a verbal format. Students are definitely used to talking. Ask any teacher. Also, they’re probably familiar with providing reasons why they agree/disagree on paper, but communicating it in a verbal format can cause some issues. Providing these students with sentence starters, using technology that can be shared with the class, or using other appropriate means can help students engage respectfully in a productive math dialogue.
I’ll be keeping these ideas in mind during my planning process.