While I was recently cruising through the mathematical blogosphere, I landed on a post I enjoyed on Dan Meyer’s dy/dan blog. The post, titled “Stats Teachers: 2019 Is Your Year,” discusses proposed tax rates and using classroom examples to help students become “smarter about taxes in a day than fully half of Americans have been in their entire lives.”
In 2016, Meyer’s blog celebrated its 10th anniversary. Please join me on a tour of just a few of the many interesting posts available there.
“That Isn’t a Mistake” and the follow-up post “[Mailbag]: What Do You Do with the Ideas You Used to Call ‘Mistakes'”
In the first post, Meyer compares mistakes, which he defines as “the difference between what I did and what I meant to Do” and incorrect answers. He offers teachers this challenge:
“Our students offer us windows and we exchange them for mirrors. The next time you see an answer that is incorrect, don’t remind yourself about the right way to talk about a mistake. It probably isn’t a mistake. Ask yourself instead, ‘What question did this student answer correctly? What aspects of her thinking can I see through this window? Why would I want a mirror when this window is so much more interesting?’
In the second post, Meyer remarks on reader-submitted questions and comments about implementing this approach to responding to incorrect answers in the classroom. Here’s one of my favorite sections:
“I don’t have any problem saying a student’s answer is incorrect, that they didn’t correctly answer the question I was trying to ask. But my favorite mathematical questions defy categories like ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ entirely:
- So how would you describe the pattern?
- What do you think will happen next?
- Would a table, equation, or graph be more useful to you here?
- How are you thinking about the question right now?
- What extra information do you think would be helpful?
How can you call any answer to those questions a mistake or incorrect? What would that even mean? Those descriptions feel inadequate next to the complexity of the mathematical ideas contained in those answers, which I interpret as a signal that I’m asking questions that matter.”
Come for the story of an interesting adventure; stay insights such as these:
From Meyer: “Children are teenagers are adults. I was struck hard by the similarities between all the different ages I’ve taught. People of all ages like puzzles. They respond well to the techniques of storytelling. Unless they’re wildly misplaced, they come to your class with some informal understanding of your lesson. They appreciate it when you try to surface that understanding, revoice it, challenge it, and help them formalize it.”
From Joshua, a commenter: “Everyone has their right to an aesthetic preference for particular areas/topics/levels of math. The cool thing about math is that (almost) every topic can be really fun to investigate because it is open to a deeper exploration of pattern, structure, and connections to other areas. A weakness of math education is that again, almost every topic can be presented in a way that is closed, shallow, isolated, and boring.”
Just one of several interesting posts in his “Fake-World Math” series.
His “Guest Bloggers” series about his student teaching days
As always, thank you for reading! If you want to reach me with any comments or suggestions, reach out in the comments below or on Twitter @writesRCrowell.