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#AskDontTell: Pythagorean Relationships

19 Jun

I have been invited to write a few posts for NCTM’s Mathematics Teacher Blog: Joy and Inspiration in the Mathematics Classroom. You can read my second post here. While you’re there, be sure to catch up on any other posts you haven’t read. There are some great ones by Matt Enlow, Chris Harrow, and Kathy Erickson.

My post starts with a quote by one of my students: A few weeks ago, I overheard one student telling another, “Will you help me figure this out? Don’t just tell me how to do it.” How many of the students in our care are thinking the same thing? How often do we tell them how to do mathematics? How often do we provide them with “Ask, Don’t Tell” opportunities to learn mathematics?

After reading the post, John Golden tweeted the following:

John had no idea that I happen to be reading Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchart (you can preview the first chapter at the link), and so the language that he chose to use was timely. I’m deep in the midst of thinking about how we teach our students to learn … about the cultures that we are creating with our students.

Ritchart quotes Lev Vygotsky: “Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” And then says himself, “… learning to learn is an apprenticeship in which we don’t so much learn from others as we learn with others in the midst of authentic activities.” [p. 20]

Ritchart later asks, “What difference does it make if a teachers asks, ‘Is your work done?’ or ‘Where are you in your learning?’” [p. 44]

I wonder what you think. Does it matter whether we ask our students whether they are finished with their work or where they are in their learning? I think it might. Focusing on the learning instead of the work creates a culture of thinking. Focusing on the learning instead of the work causes students to say, “Will you help me figure this out? Don’t just tell me how to do it.”

And so the journey of creating cultures of thinking continues …

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