What are you doing everyday? Things to think about for Guided Math and Whole Group Conversations

Posted on October 22, 2010. Filed under: Assessment, Classroom environment, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |


In 1933, Dewey suggested that:

When the teacher fixes his attention exclusively on such matters as these [the acquisition of skills and knowledge], the process of forming underlying and permanent habits, attitudes, and interests is overlooked. Yet the formation of the latter is more important for the future. (1933, pp. 57-58) (cited in Merz, 2009).

Do you agree?  Isn’t it at least just as important to shape habits, attitudes and interests as it is to teach them their multiplication tables or how to divide fractions?  How we teach is just as important as what we teach?  At the end of our lessons, do our students feel like, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over with.”  Or do they walk away wanting more, desperate for the next lesson?

I love this quote because I think Dewey reminds us that we do teach and touch the future.  What we do daily, will affect them for the rest of their lives.  And they will either walk away from your class, thinking they are capable, that smart is learned, that they can do it if they try, or that they can’t and they hate math.

If as Dewey states, “the latter is more important for the future”- habit, attitudes and interests,  how do you then begin to think about teaching more than 3 x 4 =- 12?

How do we teach this too?  We set up spaces to cultivate great habits, attitudes and interests.  All of our moves, many of them implicit shape our students attitudes.  We have to be attentive to how each step we take shapes this for them.

Guided math groups provide us a special space to cultivate these aspects of learning math because we can give more individualized attention.  We can attend to these in our groups and coach our students more one to one.

Any thoughts? Please share:)

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2 Responses to “What are you doing everyday? Things to think about for Guided Math and Whole Group Conversations”

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To me, it comes down to the realization that a teacher has to know who is in front of them everyday. You only get to know about someone if you talk to them, so a teacher of mathematics will only reveal the “mathematician” in each student if there is opportunity to discuss the math being taught. Recently, I was in a gr. 6 classroom supporting a teacher with her small group instruction. This class is working on different types of graphs ( line plots). The group had a set of data and had to construct a line plot and respond to a few questions in their journal. While listening to their rationale for how to attempt the problem, I noticed that a usually reluctant student was taking the lead in the discussion. I never heard this student speak about any school work, let alone math. At the end of the class, I commented on his ability to motivate his group to analyze the graph and why he never answers in class. He said that he knows what to do, but he never gets to talk about it. He liked explaining the “hard parts” to the group. This teacher was struggling through whole group lessons and battling daily with this student. He was like a shiny new penny in the guided group. The other plus is that important relationships are building in the classroom and this student will be more likely to enjoy math.

I agree. I think guided math groups are essential. Even if accountable talk discussions are conducted with the whole class, it is in the guided math group that the teacher is truly able to connect with students to assess their true mathematical skills and thought process.


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