Tuesday, July 13, 2010

5 symptoms you are teaching wrong

"I sell a product to a market that doesn't want it.  I'm a high school math teacher!" Says Dan Meyer.

Mr. Meyer talks about computation and problem solving.  We, in american education, focus so much on the computation that we lose sight of the ability for our students to solve problems.  We give students so much information that we lose the ability to step through a new and unique problem more like what students are going to see in their future.

The 5 symptoms Mr. Meyer says you are teaching math wrong can actually be expanded to all classrooms and contents.  Check for these symptoms in your classroom.  I know I've seen them in mine.

They are:

1.  Lack of initiative - "students don't self-start."

I see this everyday in class whether it is students afraid to start and fail, afraid to take risks, poor hook into the topic of the day, or just simply a problem that doesn't interest them.  Initiative in students today across america is lacking.  Sometimes I feel the key is not making problems in the classroom relevant to the students' lives.

2.  Lack of perseverance - Students give up at the first sign of difficulty.

How many times have you get started on something and no less than 2 minutes later students are asking you if they are on the right track or they showed that they have lost interest in the problem?

3.  Lack of retention - Students forget right after you instruct a lesson how to solve a problem.

See lack of perseverance again.  Also, through many discussions in curriculum writing I have learned to better determine what topics are good to learn through the 40/40/40 rule (what do we learn for 40 minutes/40 days/40 years).  The topics that are the 40 minute topics there is no wonder students would omit that and not determine that information and valuable.  The ability to solve problems and show patience in doing that lasts for a lifetime.

4.  Aversion to word problems - Students are scared to solve problems that are not straightforward.

I was this way back in school.  As I teacher I am constantly thinking about how are we presenting the word problems to make the students so afraid of them?  Why are they afraid of them?  Also, isn't life just one big word problem?

5.  Eagerness for formula - Simply wanting to find the easiest way to solve the problem, not revel and enjoy the process.

Mr. Meyer speaks on how there is a philosophy of students today in the 21st century that seek for the immediate gratification and the "Two-and-a-half Men" type thinking.  An "impatience with irresolution" denotes the neural pathways we create within our brain that seek only the surface level problems.  That surface level, 7 minutes and find a commercial, sitcom sized problems, instant feedback type of thinking will not permit our students to be successful to problems in the real world.

How do we fix that?

1.  Don't rely on the textbook - We revise textbooks and problems that we use within our curriculum to make the curriculum more rigorous and relevant.

2.  Get creative - Create our own problems that are unique to our student population and mask the different levels and text so that way students can explore problem solving using the information they learned from class discussion.

3.  Create buy in by creating personalized problems - By that I mean relevant to students lives.

4.  Create real-time solutions - By using real solutions to real problems and using those solutions that were actually found out through experimentation.

5.  Enjoy the sources of error - Be okay with a range of answers and be passionate about sources of error.  Discuss with students what could have affected the answers, discuss it, enjoy it, find as many possible places you went wrong as possible.  Remember that life brings about many factors that affect the outcome of situations.

6.  Use multimedia - Every school is aligning itself to new technology standards so don't be afraid to use things such as the web, laptops, cameras, phones, etc. to help solve and document the problem.  It will become a great source of discussion and reflection as the year progresses and the problems get more difficult.

7.  Encourage student intuition - Create a climate where students can take risks, propose solutions, and outline their process to solve a problem.

8.  Ask the shortest question you can - Stop giving the students all the information they will need to solve every problem so they can simply plug-and-chug the information into the

9.  Let students build the problem - work with them to find the information they need and solve the problem with them.

10.  Be less helpful - stop giving them everything, let them find the information, stop telling them they are on the right track, make them defend their thinking, stop telling them they have the right answer, make them tell you why their answer is correct.  Defend it.

As I learn more about life in the 21st century I think more and more about how the role of teacher is changing from Sage-on-a-stage to mentor and advisor, these thoughts will be good for me as I enter my next school year.

Enjoy the video!

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