To this end, I have been explicitly teaching how we speak to one another about Math, how we question and comment to promote one anothers' learning. We created a "Math Talk" Anchor chart, (which really comes from one of our Ministry's Inspire Monographs).
I've been teaching Math through problem-solving, hoping that for the most part, the students will be constructing their own learning. I admit, this has been challenging, but we are making progress! The first issue was that the students really didn't have much "stamina" for solving problems. I got a lot of "I don't get it"s and "I need help"s. I decided to do something that one of our Secondary Math coaches, Aldona, suggested. I decided to teach the 4-part Problem Solving Model explicitly in parts. First we just focused on the first part - Understanding the Problem. I realised that this was mostly a reading comprehension issue. So we talked about our Reading Strategies, and we realised that "Visualisation" can really help when trying to understand the problem.
Then we started to focus on choosing a strategy to solve the problem. We are creating a class anchor chart for problem-solving strategies. So far on our chart we have:
- Guess and Check
- Use smaller numbers
- draw a picture or diagram
- make a chart or table
- use an equation
This really helped. The students are starting to improve on their ability to stick with a problem. So then I wanted to work on their ability to have a "Math Conversation". This turned out to be something I had to explicitly teach as well! We tried posting all of our work and using a "Gallery Walk". You can read all about the Gallery Walk and other ways to promote communication in Math in the Capacity Building Series Monograph: http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesLNS/Monographs/CapacityBuildingSeries/CBS_Communication_Mathematics.pdf
I armed the students with sticky notes and asked them to write comments on one another's work. Their comments were mostly "Neat work" or "Great job!" or "You need to include words". Not what I was looking for at all! I realised I had to model how to write comments as well.
Slowly but surely we are getting there. Scroll down to see where we are at now.
Here is an example of Parallel Tasks and an Open Question.
During the Gallery Walk, students could see that there were different strategies to solve the same problem.