When you think back to the math classroom in which you grew up, what do you remember?
For most of us, it was sitting in rows watching our teacher solve math problems as we took notes. It may have included an opportunity for a few of us to go to the board to solve a new problem in the same way the teacher modeled, and it almost always ended with a worksheet.
There was probably little interaction with other students as we were all trying to get the "right" answer and solve the problem in the "correct" way.
In the South-Western City School District, we have been working to increase student engagement with mathematics.
We know our students do not all learn or approach problems in the same way.
Our goal is for the students to be problem solvers and mathematicians. To accomplish this, we engage them in productive struggle. There is not just one way to solve a problem and we often have to fail before we succeed.
Students are encouraged to seek solutions that are grounded in logic and prior knowledge and that make sense to them, instead of imitating methods used by their teacher or peers. We want students to have strategies they can call upon to help them approach any problem they may encounter.
As adults, we often want to solve problems for our students when they begin to struggle, and it can be hard to watch them work through the process.
I remember taking a pencil from a student and solving the problem for them because I wanted to help them.
Letting students deal with difficult moments, however, allows them the opportunity to grow and become problem solvers. It is these experiences that provide students the skills needed to change their course, try something different and find more successful approaches.
Resilience creates learners with no boundaries because failing the first time does not deter them from staying the course and solving any problem that comes their way.
As the school year closes, we want our students to continue to be problem solvers over the summer. Try to find ways to engage children in productive struggle in normal everyday tasks.
Some ways to do this include:
* Provide a budget to go grocery shopping or plan a family trip.
* Let students double or triple a recipe that you are making or plan for how much food you will need for a cookout.
* Task students with collecting items in the backyard or at the park and then have them sort those items in different ways.
* Give your child measurement tools and let them measure different items around the house.
When children struggle, encourage them to keep trying. Give them feedback and praise that support persevering through a problem even if they fail the first time.
April Weese is the curriculum coordinator for the South-Western City School District.