Math Sense: Chapter 3, The Look of the Lesson, Teachers - Math Coach's Corner

Wow! What incredible conversations we had about the first two chapters of Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Math Instruction, by Christine Moynihan. We’ve got a great professional learning community going here!

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Here’s the reading schedule (use the links to visit any of the posts):

Chapter 3, The Look of the Lesson: Teachers

“An essential part of being a teacher is to model what it means to be a mathematical thinker and then facilitate such thinking in students.” Math Sense (pg. 40)

As I read this chapter, that quote really summed up the role of the teacher in today’s mathematics classroom for me. We’ve been talking a lot about the Mathematical Practices on our campus, and this quote fits perfectly with our focus.

This chapter is about the role of the teacher, and what you might observe the teacher doing in a math class. It includes discussions about differentiating instruction, informal assessment and feedback, addressing common misconceptions, wait time, and communication of lesson goals and objectives. All critical components of effective teaching. With this chapter, we have the opportunity to critically reflect on our practices and set goals for the year. I guess you can tell from the quote I included above what my goal for the year is!

What does it mean to “facilitate mathematical thinking”? It means teaching students the habits that are second nature for mathematicians as they carry out their work. Often times we teach math without teaching students how to go about doing math. I love thinking of the mathematical practices as habits, because here is the definition of a habit from Miriam Webster:

an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary <got up early from force of habit>

Now let’s look at the author’s list of the components for facilitating mathematical thinking:

  1. use of manipulatives to introduce a concept or to explain mathematical thinking;
  2. application of a problem-solving heuristic; click here for a primary poster based on George Polya’s process and here for the intermediate version
  3. use of mathematical notation;
  4. purpose of writing in mathematics;
  5. use of mathematical vocabulary;
  6. integration of technology;
  7. importance of perseverance; and
  8. gains to be made from mistakes.
What an incredible list! Just picture all of that going on in your classroom on a daily basis. My goal, in working with my teachers this year, is to build that kind of instruction into our lessons and to develop those habits in our students.

So share what your big takeaway was from this chapter. Have you set a goal for the year? What part of this chapter did you really connect with?

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