5. what did you do in math today?

"Good math = math you want to talk about.”
―George Gadanidis

1. WHAT DID YOU DO IN MATH TODAY?

If you ask a child "What did you do in math today?" the typical answer will be "I don't know", "Nothing", or the mention of a topic like "Fractions".

Why are children not coming home eager to share "Mom, do you want to hear what we did in math today?"

Perhaps the math they are learning is not that interesting to talk about.

Or, perhaps it is not learned in ways that can be talked about with family and friends.

Or, perhaps children have not developed skills for sharing good math stories.

Over the past several years, I have been spending an average of 50 days each year in elementary school classrooms in Canada and in Brazil, collaborating with teachers to develop better ways of engaging children with mathematics. Our guiding principle has been the question "What did you do in math today?" As we plan lessons we imagine how students would answer this question. Would they be able to share a math story that engages the imagination, that offers mathematical surprise and insight, that connects both intellectually and emotionally?

For example, shown on the right is how grade 4 students in Brazil prepared to share the math surprise that "Odd numbers hide in squares!"

 

 

2. A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE LESSON PLANNING APPROACH

The lesson planning model, developed and tested in classroom-based research, offers children:

  • math experiences that are "worth talking about"
  • communication skills for telling good math stories

The model has 4 components:

  1. mathematical surprise and conceptual insight
  2. a low floor and a high ceiling, which allow children to engage with math ideas with minimal math knowledge, while offering children opportunities to extend these ideas to more complex mathematics (deeper math relationships and more varied representations)
  3. emotional emgagement (such as through children's literature)
  4. wide walls by creating an audience for children's learning (such as sharing learning with family, friends, and the wider community)

 

The short video below offers a brief summary of this approach. The math example in the video comes from three grade 3 classrooms, in Ontario, Canada, where students scripted dialogues they might have have at home when asked "What did you do in math today?"

 

 

3. A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE APPROACH EDUCATION REFORM

The mathematics education reform model presented in this chapter is built on the following principles:

  • cover the curriculum
    • teachers are professionals and they are committed to teaching the mandated curriculum
    • all of the ideas presented in this resource have been developed in collaboration with classroom teachers, to meet curriculum needs
  • have a clear goal
    • you have a clear goal if you can describe it to a non-expert (a parent, a friend) and they understand you
    • here's the goal of our model for math education reform: design lessons that prepare students to answer the question "What did you do in math today?" by sharing learning stories that capture the imagination, engage emotionally, and offer the pleasure of mathematical surprise and insight
  • change gently
    • this reform model is not about changing everything that you do or changing all at once
    • it's about gently adding math learning experiences that prepare students to answer the question "What did you do in math today?" where students share learning stories that capture the imagination, engage emotionally, and offer the pleasure of mathematical surprise and insight
    • the goal is to eventually do this once in every unit of study

    • there are lots of classroom-tested ideas in this resource to get you started!