Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dan Meyer has written a post on a document called "improving learning in mathematics" by Malcolm Swan from the University of Nottingham. Meyer calls it the best writing on math he has read in a long time. I am working hard for kids to learn math differently in my classroom. Look at the characteristics of traditional math teaching according to Swan:

  • students are given low-level tasks which are mechanistic and can be completed by imitating a routine or procedure without any depth of thought
  • students are mainly receivers of information, and have little opportunity for more direct participation in the lesson and the exploration of different approaches
  • insufficient time is allowed for students to develop their understanding of the mathematical concepts being taught
  • students have too little time to explain their reasoning and consider the merits of alternative approaches
Sound like your classroom? Be honest. I am guilty of all of the above. Even this year. Change is not easy even if you know what you are aiming for.

Here's how the students in "grade" six said about their math instruction:
  • “I listen while the teacher explains.”
  • “I copy down the method from the board or textbook.”
  • “I only do questions I am told to do.”
  • “I work on my own.”
  • “I try to follow all the steps of a lesson.”
  • “I do easy problems first to increase my confidence.”
  • “I copy out questions before doing them.”
  • “I practise the same method repeatedly on many questions.”
How about these. Make you uncomfortable? They do me. They do because I know all of this stuff. And I am not there yet.

Can't give up. Need help. Colleagues, twitter, blogging, books, PD, conferences, patience, perserverence, sleepless nights. Have to keep trying!

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