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So 2/3 of a master’s program completed, 2 years spent as a Learning Leader in my building, a year on mat leave to mull over where I am in my teaching, and a return to the classroom as a half-time teacher in a spectacular pilot program. This year I vowed I was going to walk the walk. My math classroom would be inquiry based. We would discover math together through interesting problems. On top of this we’d make interesting connections to ELA and Social Studies. It would be amazing.
My reality? Is not nearly so pretty or amazing. It’s actually just barely passable for organized chaos. My process looks a bit like this:
Plan pretty decent lessons that let students play with the ideas (thanks to awesome real-life and internet colleagues). Have chaotic, but really interesting discussions about math rules & conventions. Continually be impressed by the things students notice and observe and conclude about math. Be not so impressed with the general hormonal behaviour of 14 year old young people. Arrive at desired conclusions eventually; sometimes painfully, sometimes brilliantly. Transition into applying the rules we’ve discovered. Realize that many students need more time with the idea, but that curricular demands say there is no more time. Default to giving struggling students procedures to “get questions done correctly.” Feel horrible. Repeat.
Folks, I know what the research says. I know in the long run these conversations, inquiries and struggles are far more important for students than if they can find a common denominator and remember to reduce. But I’m asked to evaluate students on their ability to find that denominator. That and many many other things. I just don’t have faith that if I don’t tell them how that they will eventually get there on their own. Especially when they bring all sorts of crazy math baggage with them and are defeated before we even begin. (Seriously, I asked students to tell me the most fun they’ve had in math and 80% of kids couldn’t think of ANYTHING. 9 years. Nothing. Oy.) Showing them step by step procedures doesn’t feel right either though.
What do you do for these kids? How do we afford them more time but not lose them in the class? My units are less sequential/dependant on previous stuff than most, but still, some stuff is just plain ol’ important in a “curriculum” kind of way.