A kid asked me today…

“Where are the steps on how to do the problem? I need you to tell me step 1, step 2 step 3 so I can do it…”

Some teachers may provide students with step by step instructions on how to do a mathematical problem. But I want to ask these teachers, are you really helping the student learn or rather helping them learn how to memorize the steps and regurgitate it like a robot? I feel that the best way for students to learn is through productive struggle and exploration. Of course at the end of the lesson I will summarize and help students unpack ideas; nevertheless , so many of my students want the easy way out and wait for the teacher to tell them the answer.

It definitely depends on the students and some need more guidance than others, but if we as educators do not allow room for productive struggle in our classrooms, are students truly learning and thinking about problems deeply?

I can definitely see arguments from both sides. But this is how I have been trying to meet halfway. When students spend some time exploring 10-15 minutes on a problem, I recap as a whole class and ask the class what strategies have worked for them, and show the strategies that students share underneath the document camera. After we see multiple strategies we discuss which ones are the most efficient and the students help me summarize what step 1, step 2 and step 3 should be, etc. That is why I never have pre-typed notes; we create notes together as a class organically.


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