The toolkit workshop last week was a success overall. We looked (and “played with”) a variety of items that students can use as tools for solving problems.

Along the way, however, I learned a valuable lesson about speaking clearly. One of the tools we used at the workshop was the 100-dot array. Now, as it turned out, the participants had a list of possible toolkit items, and we were exploring a number of items on the list, but I was not introducing the items in any particular order. When I began to speak of the 100-dot array and ask the participants to find the samples provided on the tables, quite a few folks looked at me rather strangely. I asked them again to each get a sample of the 100-dot array to use, and finally several folks stopped me to ask me what, exactly, did I want them to use!

I tend to talk quickly in a workshop (there is always SOOOOO much math to talk about, and I am trying to squeeze in as much as I can to any given time period!) and in speaking *quickly* I was not speaking *clearly*. In fact, one participant handed me a note at the end of the session with these words written on it:

- 100 dotter, eh?
- 100 daughter a?
- 100 daughter ray?
- 100 dotteray?

Clearly, in knowing for myself what I was referring to when I said “100-dot array” I assumed that everyone else was hearing what I was saying. They were not!

In the end we sorted it out, I pronounced the tool’s name slowly and clearly, and we went on with the session. But it made me wonder about other workshops, other sessions, other classes of students, other teachers with other classes of students. Do others hear clearly what we are trying to say? And what about the students who assume that if they aren’t “getting it” that it is something wrong with them, and not the speaker? There are so many math terms. It is important that we speak them clearly.

I hope I have learned my lesson from the “!00-dot array”. Maybe the next workshop will provide the evidence.

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

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