Thursday, July 1, 2010

What do good mathematicians do?

In my role as an instructional coach we (the other coaches and I) spend time reading, discussing for our own professional growth. Each elementary school has a literacy/math coach. At the middle school, each building has a 1/2 time literacy coach and a 1/2 time math coach. I'm the math coach at my building. The first few years we spent a lot of time building the coaches' understanding of how students learn math. Much of the focus was on developing number sense. It was a great time in my personal professional learning. This year the focus shifted to literacy. I'm 7-12 math certified and have no to very little literacy background. I definitely believe that all teachers have to also be reading teachers. I'm just not sure how to do that... Now back to the main point of the blog...

One of the literacy resources we looked at was all about creating a workshop structure. (I can't remember the book or author. I'll have to get back to you on that one.) The chapter I had to read was about a teacher who focused her workshop time on What do good readers do? That got me thinking about the math connection. What do good mathematicians do? How can I use that to create/drive a workshop culture in my math class?

This is what I've come up with...
  • Good Mathematicians work on solving problems.
  • Good Mathematicians play games and work on puzzles.
  • Good Mathematicians ask questions and explore ideas.
  • Good mathematicians practice their skills.
*Disclaimer: I did not come up with this all by myself. Some of the other coaches and I have been talking about what this would look like for math. We are great sounding boards for each other. Some of the other coaches have also included vocabulary to connected it to the Daily Cafe. For my first attempt at this I'm sticking with my four listed above.

What it will look like (I hope)

Problem Solving - Students will have a non-routine problem to solve. In the past I've used problems from Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School or Mathematics Teacher. I also love this place. I hope to have a rubric in place where I can give feedback on the students' ability to understand the problem, devise a strategy, and follow it through (adapting when necessary). Required for all students - At least twice a grading period?

Games and Puzzles - I'm hoping to have a collection of games that connect to the content or a specific outcome. The first grading period I'm focusing on these games with the hope to add more as the year progresses. Polygon Capture, Docfish, Number Subset Game

Inquiry and Exploration - I think this is open for students but I'm probably going to provide some ideas to start with. Networks, fractals, history of math, mathematicians, math careers, math in animation, computer programming, etc. I'm not sure how I'll assess but I'd like students to have a product to summarize their learning. I don't think this will be required of all students.

Practice - State testing anyone? This is built in time for practicing the skills for the state test and for Algebra I. My students are required to take the 8th grade state test but they learned most of the material in 6th and 7th grade. This is a way to keep it fresh. For Algebra I this is time for those students who want to/need to practice a particular learning target. This practice will be graded only for feedback purposes not as a part of their grade.

During the workshop time students will need to working on one of the above areas. My hope is to have my students well trained to be self-sufficient during that time so that I can work with small groups of students re-teaching concepts.


  1. What about Kenken as a game/puzzle? Check out - they have a section just for teachers.

  2. Lisa - yes! I completely forgot to include that. Thank you for reminding me.

  3. I love KenKen!!

    But, how often will you run these workshops?

  4. Elissa - I'm thinking around 2 times a week but that will be flexible.