Math Sense, Chapter 4, The Look of the Lesson: Students - Math Coach's Corner

Welcome back to our online book study of Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Math Instruction, by Christine Moynihan.  If this is your first time visiting, click on the links below to catch up!

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

Chapter 4, The Look of the Lesson: Students

“A lesson without the active mental and physical engagement of students is most likely a lesson without any real learning.” Math Sense (pg. 59)

While Chapter 3 focused on the look of the teacher in an effective mathematics classroom, this chapter focuses on what the students are doing. What a powerful list! According to the author, we hope to see students actively engaged, actively listening, collaborating, making connections, persevering, using what they know to find what they don’t know, and taking risks. Not to be downplayed, though, is the teacher’s role in creating a classroom climate where this type of dynamic learning takes place, and this was a common thread I found throughout the chapter. Check out these quotes:

  • This kind of engagement does not come instantly, and we know some days are better than others. (pg. 60)
  • To listen actively is a learned behavior. (pg. 63)
  • If you expect to observe students consistently working with one another to complete a task you have set, then specificity and modeling can be helpful. (pg. 64)
  • Looking for the budding signs of perseverance in each student and acknowledging growth at every opportunity is a wonderful gift to give to your students. (pg 69)
  • This is where your recognition of students taking risks and your support of them when doing so are of paramount importance. (pg. 73)

In other words, we can’t expect that these behaviors are natural for our students–they must be taught. I think that’s a big mistake we often make, not realizing the effort involved in modeling and reinforcing desired behaviors that we, as adults, take for granted.

Once again, the components outlined in this chapter that describe what it looks like when students are “doing” mathematics (pg. 57) directly address the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices. Page 65 describes how students are incorporating three Mathematical Practices when they are making connections. But several other components–actively listening, collaborating, persevering, using what they know to find what they don’t know, and taking risks–all engage students in mathematical practices! This chapter is really a blueprint for embedding the practices into your instruction. Click here to grab the bookmark shown below.  Keep it handy as a reminder of those essential practices and reflect on it often!

Time for you to chime in.  Which of these components will you address in the coming week? What changes will you make to your instruction based on what you read in this chapter?

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