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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Study: Minds on Mathematics - Ch. 1 & 2

FYI: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about my teaching life, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! I think I found her blog through Pinterest and I have loved reading her ideas for her middle school classroom. So when she posted she was doing a book study on a math book that guides you through doing workshop in your math class, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
Up until now I have just been commenting on Sherrie's blog, but I realized I had quite a bit to say and there is a lot of information that I want to refer back to throughout the teaching year, so I wanted to go ahead and blog about it myself!

I plan to cover 2 chapters per post, so here goes chapter 1 and 2.

Chapter 1: Minds-on Math Workshop
This chapter was just an overview of the book. Each chapter starts with a Problem of the Day and a Postulate.
Problem of the Day: How can we use our time in math class to grow students' understanding?
Postulate: In minds-on math workshops, teachers apprentice young mathematicians by modeling thinking, immersing students in challenging tasks, and providing ample time for learners' creative work within a community of support.

After reading all that needs to take place in a successful math workshop, I do worry about time. I only have 46 minutes each class period and I seem to always be pressed for time.

An ah ha moment for me was I tend to rescue my students too quickly and not let them struggle. I think in today's society when a student "struggles" they give up very easily because they are used to things being handed to them. So I think you must start this the first day so they get used to struggling a bit, but also having the confidence to continue until they have a logical answer. I also think that students are so in the habit of using a formula and just solving that when you ask if their answer is logical, they really might not know. I think that modeling plays an important key to success with the workshop model and that will help deciding if something is logical.

My question is, Hoffer refers to having other mathematical responsibilities for the students who finish early. What does she mean exactly by this? Is it problems that relate to what they are currently learning? Or is it maybe a review of what they previously learned? Are they word problems/everyday life problems or are they just practical problems? I like to have these types of things available, but I'm never really sure what works best.
This workshop puts a lot more focus on the students and takes the attention off the teacher. The teacher is the facilitator and the students are the driving force. The workshop is broken into 4 sections: Opening, Minilesson, Work time, and Sharing and Reflection. Those each have their own chapter, but here is a brief overview of the teacher/student responsibilities in a Minds-on Math Workshop.

Chapter 2: Tools
Problem of the Day: How do you teach students to understand information and solve problems for themselves?
Postulate: The purpose of minds-on math workshops is twofold: to support students in understanding math concepts and simultaneously to develop student's mastery of transferable skills and strategies that will help them to succeed across content areas, throughout the stages of their lives.

This chapter seemed to hit the nail on the head for me. I think the most important line is: "we need to teach our students how to think not what to know". I'm so guilty if saying, you need to know this, it's going to be on the test. I'm just asking them to memorize something, not LEARN it. So many times my students get stuck, raise their hand, and ask for my help. And what do I do? I look over their work and then tell them where they went wrong and to go back from that point and move forward again. Instead, I should model that for them, and that is a great moment to introduce that strategy. It might be a good idea to ask them to walk me through their steps and maybe they will see their error instead of me TELLING them.

When you are asking the class to share their mistakes and whether they were able to fix them or not, that takes really good community in your classroom. Anytime you are asking someone to admit when they made a mistake, it's going to take trust, but I believe it's the key to success.

The chart on page 27 is filled with thinking strategies and I do believe that all are important 1 really stuck out to me: monitoring for meaning. So many times students say "I don't get it". I always tell them that I can't help them if they don't ask the right question. We really want students to hone in on where they are confused or what they aren't understanding so there is a pinpoint of where their is a gap.

We really need to work toward understanding, not coverage! And we need to model for our students that we all get stuck, but how are we going to get unstuck? We need to show them the appropriate tools for working through such problems -This is where talking about mistakes comes in handy! Have students compare their work one day and when they come to a problem where they did differently, have them write it on the board (both problems) and talk about it as a class. I think this would be so beneficial, because I bet more than just that one student had the same misconception when they solved it. After reading this chapter, I realized that Reflection is one of the most important tools we can use. I'm guilty of running out of time some days and not doing any reflection. I need to make time for this no matter what. It could be the most important part of the day!

 Overall, I really enjoyed reading this chapter. Have you heard of Mark Forget? He has come to our district twice now for 2-4 day seminars and I have learned so much from him. He really focuses on getting students to THINK and he has simple activities that really help teachers. Most of these activities can be pulled out of a hat, so there really isn't a lot of planning necessary. I used many activities last year and was in awe of how well the students enjoyed them, but also how much better their comprehension and understanding was than years past.

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