Math Class Discussion Style

by Tyler Clark

I am applying for an assistantship and to be eligible, I have to be observed by a professor. Due to conflicts in schedule, I could not teach for one of the College Algebra courses. Instead, I was asked to teach for a course called “NUMBER SYS/THEORY FOR TEACHERS.” It is a math class for elementary education teachers.

I was quite nervous. I had never taken any education classes and I was wondering how I was supposed to teach other people how to teach (considering it is really not my area of expertise). The professor that teaches the course and consequently was given the task of observing me is Dr. Summer Bateiha. I spoke with her to see what she wanted me to teach and when. She quickly informed me that her teaching style was a bit radical and “non-traditional.” This made me a little more nervous.

When she returned from vacation, we met and discussed her teaching style. Her first day of class is a getting-to-know you day. She allows everyone in the class to share with one another and get comfortable going to the board. She had them write their hobbies and such – questions for which there is no wrong answer. Then at the end of class, she gave them a journal assignment. This assignment contained various problems and they were to take it home, complete it, and bring it back the next day – typical, right?

The next class period was similar to the first, only the students divided into groups of 5 and discussed their answers to the problems. They helped one another understand the different topics covered in the journal assignment and allowed them to present their findings to the entire class at the end of the period. During the class time, Dr. Bateiha walked around and saw what each group was doing. If they were going in the wrong direction, she asked them questions to steer them back in the right direction. If they asked her if they were right, she asked if it made sense to them and others in their group.

I have never seen this style of teaching utilized in a mathematics classroom. She allowed the students to do the thinking on their own and come up with the answer, rather than lecture them the concepts. For a while, I was a bit concerned of whether this method would actually work in a college setting. However, it soon became apparent that students began to grasp the material better since they were actively engaged in the process of figuring out the concepts themselves.

Has anyone seen this method of teaching used in a college classroom? What are your thoughts on the usage and effects of teaching in this manner?

This entry was posted in General, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.