Orchestrating a Class Discussion around Mathematical Goals

I keep detailed notebooks of thoughts gathered from PD, readings, and meetings, ideas for future problems, lessons, and units, and reflections of small victories, detours, or interactions.   I’ve used this system since before I’ve taught and it works well for me to process in the moment or look back on my thoughts.

I am in the process of rewriting/rethinking my course standards for next year and I reviewed my pie-in-the-sky thinking and goal setting.  And I stumbled upon my hopes and dreams of class discussions from July 10, 2009. Here’s what I came up with back in the day.

My non-linear notes:


And the more traditional notes:

Use sentence starters – How can I scaffold students to being good mathematical conversations?  How can we talk about the process and not just the solution?

  • Our approach was like ______’s work in that we both ______.
  • Our approach builds on _______’s work in that we _______.
  • Our approach was different from ______’s approach because ______.
  • I know this works because ______.
  • When I see ____, I infer ____.
  • I think this was _____ when I saw/heard <evidence> because <explanation>.
  • This work is similar to what we did before because …

Leading Questions (always connect to the objectives AND think about is the question to orient, assess, or advance student thinking – questions don’t always need to come from the “teacher”):

  • How were you thinking about it?
  • What stayed the same?
  • What changed?
  • Where did you start?
  • What seems significant?
  • How does this representation show your thinking?
  • Where are we able to generalize?
  • What is different between these two problems?
  • How do we capture that thinking onto paper?
  • What does you agree/disagree with from this group?
  • Think and digest this thought and rephrase their thinking.
  • Are you able to come up and explain/walk through your thinking?
  • What’s s/he doing?
  • What is the story of your work?
  • How could you show it another way?
  • How could you explain this in context?

I think this flash back is a bit exciting.  I know SL has been thinking about this a bit deeper than I have more recently, but my beginning thoughts from four years ago may persuade me to think a bit more about how to incorporate more sustainable discussion routines into classes.

Other awesome things I should think about/remind myself about for math discussions?


Exhibition (Part I of …)

Kogut and I really should write about exhibition sometime.  But tonight is the night before it goes live, and I’m mostly sitting here feeling incredibly proud of my students.  Just a smattering of examples of why …

– One of my students, who is working on social skills, giving a strong exhibition to a small group of teachers this afternoon.

– My last period class asking each other questions to help each other hit criteria they may have missed during their practice.

– A student who is working on getting to school on time and thus misses math up to 1/2 of the time, keeping up with the project, becoming more engaged because we were going in depth and she can re-orient more quickly, asking thoughtful, genuine questions during practice today.

– A student seeing a video about her topic and exclaiming, “I am going to add some of what I just learned to my presentation!”

– A student, who does not often volunteer to help others, tutoring his groupmates.

– Students informing each other that they will act professional/on time/not giggle/stand tall during Exhibition, no bones about it.

None of this is surprising, but it bears mentioning, and my students are awesome people. I am glad Exhibition gives them an opportunity to shine.


(P.S. No, it’s not perfect and no, not all the presentations will knock your socks off, but that, perhaps, isn’t the point.)