PERSEVERE THROUGH PROBLEM SOLVING
November 9, 2012
“Bring it on!”
Mathematical Practice Standard: Make sense of problems and persevere when solving them.
Target: 6.RP: I can use ratio reasoning to solve a real world problem.
Math has always caused me a little anxiety. I know I am not alone, because Sheila Tobias, in the 1978 publication of Overcoming Math Anxiety, described me perfectly as waiting for my “nonmathematical mind to be exposed.” I recall my experience as a math student. The classroom instruction was structured similarly as long as I can remember. The teacher usually showed the class steps to complete a computation. Students followed the steps to complete the practice problems, raising our hands if we had questions. Then, the teacher assigned the odd or even problems for homework. The next day the whole class checked our answers orally. Usually, checking involved standing at the board in front of the class to show and explain how we completed a problem individually. I am talking one student at a time…at the board…alone while the others remained seated. This routine, along with a Friday morning cyphering match, just about sent me over the edge. But as time wore on, I learned to ask enough questions of my teacher to get out of the hard work. I had come to understand that eventually the teacher would take control of my number 2 pencil and my thinking and complete the problems for me.
Today though, in room 253, the teachers let no one off the hook. The class began differently with a pledge to persevere, to think, and to not give up. Instead of the teacher showing students how to complete a computation, the class began with individual think time about a real-world task in order to tackle the problem in their own way. Next, students worked collaboratively to share their work and thinking. Group members chose a strategy to create the best solution to the task. After observing posters representing how the other groups thought, the teachers debriefed the strategies they observed the students using and how each strategy could help solve the problem of the task. Groups were then given sample student responses to evaluate in order to determine how other students attempted to solve the problem. The discussion that followed focused on how those solving the problems either persevered or took the easy way out. Students were persevering to solve a mathematical task through reasoning, questioning, and clarifying far, far away from the edge.