Saturday, July 6, 2013

Minds on Math: Chapter 2-Tools

This chapter describes the tools students need to construct understanding.  Constructing understanding is something I have been really thinking about especially this last year.  I find that I can teach math concepts and have students do well on the chapter test, but not have "learned" it.  I have always told my students that this is not just math class, it is thinking class: you have to learn how to think!
So this chapter continues to have me nodding my head in agreement.  However, it is a little overwhelming!  There are three sets of "tools" outlined in this chapter:

  • The Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice
  • Twenty-First-Century Skills
  • Thinking Strategies

We are using Singapore Math-Math in Focus starting this year and one of features I really liked about it was it lines up the CCS Mathematical Practices with each lesson!  So that part will be extremely easy for me to integrate into my lessons and the charts Hoffer give on p.22 and 23 are going to be invaluable when I am planning! I can already tell that this book is going to be well worn by the end of the year!

Twenty First Century skills seem to be what the "workshop" idea is all about.  This is where my students are going to need the most guidance.  They are so used to being told explicitly what to do when it comes to math that it is hard for them to get creative.  They just want to be told how to do it and get frustrated and shut down.  This year I plan on spending a good bit of time in the beginning just teaching these skills.

Finally the Thinking Strategies...I love these!  I am also reading Comprehending Math by Arthur Hyde and he uses these strategies as well.  I was introduced to his KWC strategy at the end of the year by my math coach and it worked so well when I could get the kids to use it.  This year I will be teaching it at the beginning of the year so hopefully I won't have to beg them to use it!  KWC for problem solving is similar to KWL charts in ELA, K is what do you know about the problem, W is what is the question, or what are you trying to find out, and C is what are the conditions or restraints.


  1. Are you using Singapore Math in 7th grade? I am so intrigued. I went to an institute last summer and we used bar models for problem solving and I absolutely loved them! Then went the whole school year and never used them with my students.

    I too really loved the thinking strategies and really want to incorporate them into my instruction next year. Thanks for sharing Robin!

  2. I, too, find that getting kids to "do" is a challenge. I think our society is such that if something doesn't come easy, we just give up. And I think that goes for adults, too. Why do we all have smartphones? Because we can have access to everything at our fingertips 24/7. We really don't have to "remember" anything anymore, because there's an app to remind us. I get's easier for me to "google" an question than to work through it. As a teacher, though, it's oh-so frustrating when the kids won't do it in the classroom. They want to be given a process or formula to follow. (The problem I've found is that even when they have a formula they often don't apply it correctly!)

    I am intrigued by Hyde's book and am off to Amazon to check it out. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. The thinking strategies are good! It's hard to teach kids how to think for themselves. The thinking strategies are good ways to model thinking and give students a process for thinking. I need to be more mindful of modeling that and labeling it for students so they know!