Scaffolding is the Key! Small Guided Math Groups is the Place!
Josh Rappaport wrote an excellent piece on scaffolding. He notes that
“No one would attempt to climb Mount Everest in a day. But when we teach math, we often expect something similar from students. We expect them to learn a complex, multi-step process in one lesson, in one hour. We expect them to go from no awareness of the process, to awareness to competence to mastery. And we don’t take account of the fact that many math process[es] require a long ladder of thought steps. In edu-jargon, this process of taking all of the little steps into account — and teaching each step individually — is called “scaffolding.” ”
This is a brillant metaphor. See his whole post.
Guided math groups are an essential part of the “scaffolding” process. In a guided math group you can listen to students talk, you can watch them do the math and give immediate feedback and you can do some direct instruction as well.
I encourage us all to think about “How tall are those ladders we are using in math class?”