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The Twenty-First-Century Mathematics Classroom

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Students sitting quietly in rows, raising hands to answer questions, and dutifully taking notes. Is this a description of the perfect classroom? Perhaps in a classic movie or in 1950. Today? Not so much. The world has shifted from manufacturing to one that integrates technologies and cultures in a social setting. How has the mathematics classroom changed?

Through coaching, I have seen a teacher in Minnesota use grouping strategies and sentence frames to focus student conversation and interaction around solving tasks and justifying reasoning. Students learn not just to look at the answer but also to begin conversations with “I agree with you because …” or “I disagree with you because …” as they make sense of the task at hand. A teacher in Oregon guides students to reference informational text and classmates as resources before requesting her support. The teacher and students are collectively building a community of learners who can challenge one another to make sense of problems. A teacher in Illinois encourages students to wonder about mathematics and use inquiry to learn.

Recently, I watched a geometry teacher draw an xy-coordinate plane on the carpet with chalk and depict a three-dimensional graph by standing as the z-axis to clarify the concept for students. Another teacher in that same department showed an interactive video of fireworks on a SMART Board™® to model quadratic equations and had students develop the models. A third teacher used calculators to see how students were answering questions and connecting the multiple representations of functions.

These mathematics teachers are everywhere, helping students reason and make sense of problems while building time for them to productively struggle toward that understanding. Mathematics teachers are working to bring students into the process of learning and use formative assessment to help the students themselves articulate what they understand and are still working to learn. The classroom is transformed into a lab, and students develop the habits of mind to connect the concepts they have learned to real-life contexts and reason logically.

Such understanding doesn’t happen in quiet rows. It happens in the structured interactions facilitated and directed by you.

SchuhlSarahSarah Schuhl has worked as a secondary mathematics teacher and instructional coach for twenty years, is an author, former MT Editorial Panel Chair, and consultant.  She enjoys working with teachers to find instructional and assessment practices that result in student learning 




What is the key to avoiding classroom management issues (talking getting out of hand) in the collaborative classroom?
Posted by: CrisW_51980 at 4/17/2014 1:27 PM

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