I've been assessing my own teaching lately and been pretty down about it. I lament the fact that I can't seem to get my 9th grade students to engage with Algebra 1 beyond a "how-to" level. I know it's a process and I know that it'll get better if I plug away at it... but it seems so far away.
There has been some success: I just have to remind myself about a student from last year who told me that the only reason that she passed the state test was because when she got to a question that she didn't know how to do, she thought to herself, "What would Mr Mango do?". It was very nice of her to say, but of course, I don't think I deserve that much credit.
I digress: I've decided that I need to re-root myself. I'm going to re-read Bob & Ellen Kaplan's book, "Out of the Labyrinth". (Christopher Rice, I love you, but you're going to have wait a few weeks. I'll get to you.) I've been to a few of their training sessions and I've totally drunk the Kool-Aid on Math Circle techniques. But. What Am I Doing Wrong?
I think it's that I'm not starting the lesson (planning or instruction) with a question. Bob and Ellen always start their Math Circle sessions with a question; a place from which inquiry can venture forth. I've known for some time, but maybe haven't verbalized the fact that all of the
Why do kids always ask, "Why do I need this?" or "Who made this up?" or "What is this good for?"? Well, not entirely absent from a lot of teaching is the inquiry that precedes the mathematical technique. I'm not asserting that no one will ever ask again "When am I ever going to use this?" but starting with a question might help alleviate some of that. Resolution: I will incite as many lessons as possible with a question.
So, I'm embarking on "Out of the Labyrinth" again... for the 4th or 5th time. New insights this time? Pretty sure that a given.