Today’s math students are expected to not just solve problems but to explain themselves, the meaning of a problem and the steps they took to come up with solutions. Students are asked to make conjectures, spot relationships and patterns they see between problems and much more. Gone are the days of rote memorization of math facts. In today’s classrooms you will find students decomposing numbers, engaging in mathematical discourse and looking at different entry points to find solutions to problems. While for many of us this “new” math feels foreign, it is important to remember that educators today are learning more and more about how students learn mathematics. The instructional actions that teachers are taking in today’s classrooms are directly aligned with the research-based elements of effective classrooms and how students learn mathematics. Here are some easy steps you can take today to help you child be successful in math.
1. Think Before You Solve
Before jumping in to solve a problem take a few minutes to think and talk about what you know about the problem. Here is a Think Before Solving lesson plan template that explains how I do this in the classroom.
2. Ask Questions
The kinds of questions we ask matter. Teachers and parents can use questioning to assess understanding, intervene when focusing is needed or press for deeper understanding. Here is a Questioning Quick Reverence sheet with examples of the different kinds of questions to ask when helping students solve math problems.
3. Make Use of Math Properties
The properties of mathematics are the rules of math. They can help students to give good reasons for arguing for or against a solution. Here is a PowerPoint defining the properties of mathematics that elementary students will use in solving problems.
4. Learn to Think Like a Mathematician
Mathematical understanding will improve if we foster students’ habitual use of these mathematical thinking routines. We call them Habits-of-Mind. I teach students that these are the habits that mathematicians use every time they do math. .
5. Learn to Act Like a Mathematician
Mathematical understanding will improve in a class where inquiry, wrong answers, perseverance and collaborating with others provides opportunities for all students to learn. This is the reason that positive student-to-student interactions are encouraged and students practice how to work together on solving problems. In our classroom they are called the Habits-of-Interaction.