Innovation Math Rocks #5


My personal goal as an instructional coach this year, is to support innovation in my work with teachers.  I’m lucky to work with amazing teachers.  They have a strong skill set and use best practices.  They are doing everything not just right, but awesome!  And yet, there are those students in every room that the teachers struggle to connect with, to make learning fun, and to draw that child in so that the child sees themselves as a learner.   

A quick internet search, and I found definitions for innovation as being a new method, or the application of a better solution to meet new requirements.  

Teaching is no longer a “one size fits all” craft.  What we were doing before may no longer meet the needs of students who are growing up in a world very different from even a few years ago!  

I was approached by our third grade math teacher for suggestions on getting her students talking more.  An invitation for innovation!

Third grade students in our district are analyzing graphs, with the intent that they not only will have a chance to review characteristics of graphs, but practice addition and subtraction to describe relationships between the information in the graphs.

We decided to try a “notice and wonder” strategy.  This is a little change that can bring big results, and boy did it!   I have been using this for years, but found it best described in my favorite book Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray-Riek.  

The first one took a bit longer but here is what we did:

  1. Taught the students to put their fist under their chin.   When they have a noticing, and are ready to tell a partner, they put their thumb up.   
  2. We asked them to look at the graph, and think of something about that graph to share with a partner.  (We circulated through so that we could support students who had not put a thumb up, yet.)   
  3. We asked them to tell a partner their noticing, and then keep sharing more noticings with each other.
  4. We listened to the noticings, and then brought everyone back and charted some of the noticings.   We knew who we wanted to ask, because we had been listening.  We really focused on kiddos who were being very quiet….we asked them first.  Once their thinking was validated by being put on the chart, they started smiling.  They were more involved.
  5. We next asked students to think of a question they could ask.  “Imagine you are a teacher.  What questions about this graph could you ask your class?” We asked for the same minute of think time, the same hand signal, and the same partner talk.  
  6. We charted their questions.   Sometimes, the students would ask the same question in a different manner.  This allowed the students to have a rich conversation about the language in the question.  
  7. We highlighted  2-3 questions.  (She teaches math 3 times in a day.)  Then, we sent them to their seats to go answer the questions in their math journals.    Almost all the students asked if they could answer more than two questions.   
  8. Finally, we came back to share answers to the questions.  This turned out to be an opportunity for number talks!   Did anyone find the answer a different way?  Do we all agree on the answer?

Here is the graph.

I find it very challenging to come up with good questions that will provoke student thinking and discussion.   While they all came up with good questions, my favorite:   How many students did NOT choose softball?   Love it.  I wouldn’t have thought of that.    These third grade students thrived with this innovation in instruction!  This little change made sure that every student had a voice!   
#Math Rocks   #Innovationinteaching #PowerfulProblemSolving #noticeandwonder   #ShadowCon16

2 thoughts on “Innovation Math Rocks #5

  1. Leilani, you always amaze me. I also love the Notice and Wonder routine. This is a great way to get kids talking and to make it their own – their own noticings, their own wonderings, their own questions, and how you got them to want to answer even more of their own questions. I think this activity really helps kids find a way into the mathematics, their own mathematical thinking. I think it is very powerful and helps kids not take anything for granted – there’s usually so much to a table, graph, problem, and I think most students are so in to that “get the answer” game that they don’t really “notice” and definitely don’t really observe the information given in the diagram – only to the point that they can quickly get the info and answer the question. They don’t usually tend to do any reasoning about the mathematics involved, nor do they seem curious about it in math class without such activities as the Notice and Wonder one. Thank you for using your own knowledge and experience to help get innovation working for communication.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s