Moving Beyond the Answer

As a student, I received good grades and loved following all the procedures. As a teacher and coach, I wanted all students to be successful: the students needed to be able to understand, not just follow the procedures. There are only a small percentage of us that only follow rules and are successful.

I have been inspired by some presentations that I have watched on the internet by Phil Daro, a writer for the Common Core. Phil Daro talks about the tendency we have as American teachers to teach “answer-getting techniques” instead of teaching the math.

In contrast to American teachers, Daro discusses how Japanese teachers focus on the mathematics. So what does it look like to focus on the mathematics?

My Piece of the Puzzle

One piece of the puzzle is asking the right questions. As a writer, one of my goals is to create lessons that integrate good questions throughout the lesson in order to build connections. Often we wait until the end of the lesson to have a discussion, but I feel that it is in the small discussions during the lesson that help students build understanding. The questions need to be connected to the mathematics, not the answer. My experience has shown me that we all know that good questions are important, but we are teaching at a sprint and some things just get missed.

Your Piece of the Puzzle

Here is a link to a lesson, Willie The Wheel Man, I helped write that integrates questions throughout the lesson. The questions help students process the connection between the three different ways they can represent the mathematics.

Did the questions foster the mathematical practices? Deeper understanding?

How do you focus on the mathematics instead of just teaching “answer-getting” techniques?

4 Responses to Moving Beyond the Answer

  1. Your approach to learning is inspiring. The thing I appreciated most about the education I received at Fresno Pacific’s Biblical Seminary is that my professors were more interested in teaching me how to ask good questions then in just giving me all the answers. What they have done for me is invaluable in that I have been equipped to be a life long learner. I hope your passion for this will impact teachers and schools at the elementary school level and beyond. Thank you for what you contribute to the field of education.

    • Thanks, the ability to ask good questions is a life skill that empowers us to continue to learn in all facets of our lives. Setting a stage for students to be thoughtful and interactive will foster a learning environment that promotes thinking, not just going through the motions.

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