One Teacher's Voice


Developing mathematical understanding

[Original date posted: 10/29/2011]

Once again, Jo Boaler (author of What’s Math Got to Do With It?) has managed to explain to me why I lost my love of math throughout school. My immediate reaction to group work is frequently negative since it was never really a part of my education in a positive way but it always ends up being a valuable experience in many ways. The importance of collaboration becomes more and more clear with each chapter I read.

I remember this from my earlier days in school as well as my current experience in the school of education. I have learned a lot from collaborating with peers during the blocks and I plan to utilize this teaching style in my own future classroom. It is helpful to me to take the view of math that I grew up with (memorization of formulas and concepts) and instead pan out my view to a larger scope of number sense and problem solving.

I especially appreciate Boaler’s explanation of how she and her graduate students began approaching a new way of thinking about math with their summer school students and I believe these ideas would work with any grade at any level:

  • The importance and encouragement of asking good questions to help overall understanding.
  • Development of mathematical reasoning (justification, explanation, and defense of found answers). An important part of this is the incorporation of a math journal for students.
  • The importance of mathematical representations. “Although representation is a critical part of mathematical work and it is often the first thing that proficient problem solvers do, it is rarely taught in classrooms” (p. 155).
  • Flexible use of numbers; decomposing and recomposing numbers; a variety of strategies and methods.
I have spent almost a year now remembering my love of math and essentially re-learning it.  Quite a process.

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This entry was posted on May 1, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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