Slice of Life: Math Redux

I’m afraid my mathematical confidence peaked in third grade. Perhaps it was the fractions of fourth grade. Whatever it was, at eight I discovered math phobia.

Reading in fifth grade resuscitated my belief in me. Maybe that’s that’s why I’ve loved teaching reading to fifth graders.  I have not wanted to step away from the literature and grade level I’ve loved. But a position cropped up, and the possibility of promoting cross-content area thinking with students as well as the opportunity to learn something new convinced me to try to fourth grade to teach all subject matter, including math.

It sounds good in theory, but my math memories of scary words like addend, need to be addressed.  I’m approaching this challenge in the way I know best, with books. A stack to be exact. And a few conferences to attend. The first was a conference on Cognitive Guided Instruction (CGI) hosted by Cotsen last weekend.

Megan Franke provided the keynote starting as any researcher-educator might by asking the audience their definition of CGI.  While I was a newbie to this work, I felt at home in the pedagogical stance. Here are some of the answers given by participants:

  • Provides students with multiple gateways to have success and opportunities to participate.
  • Starts where students are in their development
  • Designed to grow student’s thinking
  • Encourages students to be curious
  • Empowers students
  • Unlocks patterns and underlying concepts
  • Focuses on children’s ideas, not teacher’s ideas
  • Problem-solving is not just about solving problems; it’s what you do when you don’t know what to do.

The small group sessions I attended highlighted the idea of unpacking problems, inquiry-based teaching and listening to students thinking to guide their thinking.

Understanding story problems as a story first: think about what you know, what you need to solve and what are the rules or constraints of the problem. Stories? What do I know, and what do I need to figure out. Sound familiar?

Inquiry-based learning to discover patterns by counting objects to make groups. Symbolic concepts become concrete:  three-dimensional representations of numbers called squared or cubed become just that. So much of what I learned by memorization and rote came to life. Wow! Could I possibly become a math geek?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.