Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Think Think Think

Last Friday, I subbed for a seventh grade math teacher. I've subbed for her before, and she knows I enjoy teaching seventh grade math. So when she needs to take a day off, she leaves me with a lesson plan, one that requires me to actually teach. I love days like that because I have trouble sitting still and as much as I love to read a book, babysitting a classroom isn't all that much fun.

Mrs. T's day is full of regular seventh grade math with a one period of pre-algebra. These are the kids who get math pretty quickly and do well at it, and will be ready to take algebra in eighth grade. But despite their innate ability to catch onto the concepts, they still have trouble thinking for themselves.

Exhibit A: Unable to answer the questions; unable to show the work.
Me: How do you do this problem? Would you like to tell me?
Her: Well, I know the answer, but I didn't write down the answer.
Me: How did you do the problem then?
Her: I did it in my head.
Me: Can you tell me how you did it?
Her: Uh, no.
Some of these students can do mental math and get the correct answer. Others, like this girl in particular, didn't even get the correct answer using mental math. Neither did the guy in the front row who said the same thing to me.
Me: Can anyone else tell us how to do this problem?
Him: I didn't get it right and I did it in my head, too.
Me: You know, as you move onto algebra and beyond, and even now, you need to prove that you can do the math. You need to show your teacher what you know. Write it down, people! Always write down what you're doing.
We then when through the correct steps and by the end of the lesson, the students seemed to understand what I was saying.

Exhibit B: Doesn't want to answer the question; is too lazy to answer the question.
Me: Okay, let's fill in the blank here for this definition of sector.
Them: Well the teacher usually just tells us and we fill it in.
Me: Well, I'm doing it a little different today. You're all pretty good at math. I think if you read this out loud, you can think about the question and come up with the answer.
Them: Groan.
Me: Thinking. Yep, I'm making you think. 
I write this post somewhat in jest, but that concept--making a student think and do the work for themselves--is the single most common issue I run into both while subbing and teaching at the college level. I might be the only adult to have made them think that day. And that's not a pat on my back, that's simply a reminder to myself to keep doing what I'm doing. That way, I'll remember to ask my own children to think, too.


Anonymous said...

That's right, you keep making those kids think!! It's good for all of us to be prodded into thinking.

Unknown said...

Mental math is the boy's (in my house) detriment. My mantra is "show your work or it'll look like you cheated!"