Blog Post Two:
Asking Effective Questions and Problem Solving
In my experience teaching Grade 7/8 homeroom math this year, it was a constant challenge to have my students become effective problem solvers. I found the reasoning for this to be two fold. Many of my students lacked the decoding strategies that were necessary to deconstruct multi-step and comprehensive mathematical problems. In spite of obvious connections made to a specific skill or unit, and an considerable knowledge and understanding of mathematical processes, many students did not know how to determine what they were looking for and accordingly had to be walked through the process of determining what information was important to parse out from the task.
I was deeply committed to helping my students build these skills because I could empathaize with the frustration and confusion they were feeling when they were trying to solve a nuanced mathematical problem. Growth mindset is something that is extremely important to me and my relationship with math was far from ideal throughout high school. Only later in my involvement in education did I realize how FUN math can be.
Rich tasks allow students to ask rich questions and use an inquiry based model to develop mathematical strategies. One of the best tools that I have found to help students learn to approach problems with confidence is one that is question focused rather than problem focused. When students have the opportunity to develop their line of mathematical inquiry and through guided teaching, determine the type of questions that should be asked, they are not only more engaged with the material, but are more aware of the process that they need to determine the most accurate answer. Three Act Math actively encourages students to become conversant with mathematical questioning. It uses positive reinforcement to help the students learn the types of questions that should be asked, how to communicate their mathematical thinking and how to achieve the desirable end result. This type of instruction brings real world problems to the forefront of math learning and encourages students to approach new tasks with a positive attitude and a questioning mind.