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