What did I learn this week?

Recently, I was approached by my principal regarding a book study that she wanted to pursue with staff. I was all over it because part of the reason that I came to Greystone was because I felt that this staff and administration team would be extremely supportive and willing to learn and reflect together about helping our students learn better. The book we chose was Making Thinking Visible.

As I read the first two chapters for our first meeting this past Tuesday, I was reminded to pose questions to my students not that I don’t but I realized that I needed to do it more often. With this in mind, I went into my class the next morning determined to ask my students more questions that caused them to question and think.

Here is how part of our lesson on subtracting decimals went:
438.95 – 95.78 = ?

I placed this question on the board and asked the students how we would go about solving it. They told me all the things that we had discussed such as lining up the decimals etc. Next, I had a student come up and show us how to solve the equation. The student did exactly what they always did, they began borrowing from the next number. I allowed them to continue until they go to 43 – 9 and just as the student was saying “I can’t take 9 away from 3 so I have to borrow from its neighbour…” I stopped him and said, “Couldn’t we subtract 9 from 43?”. All of the students looked at me and said, “NO!”. I asked them why we couldn’t and they simply told me that it’s just not how it’s done. I asked them why again and they all looked at me like I was crazy. (This is a look I am used to getting in Middle School!) After a few minutes, one student looked at me and said, “I know what you’re trying to do…you’re trying to make us think!” BINGO!!! That’s exactly what I was trying to get them to do.

By asking this one question to my students, I became acutely aware of just where their number sense was. I realized that they were not sure of numbers or how they fit together. This is huge in math. If my students aren’t aware of numbers, how can they be successful in understanding the processes involved in problem solving etc. This one question has provided me with a jumping off point for helping my students to understand the processes involved in math.

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