It is nearly the beginning of the school year here in BC, Canada. New beginnings are always special with untold opportunities and challenges before us. As a teacher, educational assistant, or parent who is home schooling a child, it is important to keep one question at the forefront and ask it of yourself daily: “Why am I doing this?”
I am particularly interested in this question in reference to math lessons because I think the intent behind a lesson matters greatly. For most of us, in our past experiences in school, the main point of doing anything in math was to get the answer, and usually with the added hope of getting it quickly and efficiently. Full stop. The answer was what was important. Indeed, it was the only thing that was important.
But is producing an answer quickly really enough? Consider some other intentions you might have for a lesson:
- I want my students to be able to explain how they arrived at the answer.
- I want my students to be able to explain why the answer they got makes sense.
- I want my students to see how this particular aspect of mathematics fits into the bigger mathematical picture.
- I want my students to understand this math concept and be able to explain the concept with concrete materials and/or visual representations.
- I want my students to understand how this mathematical concept relates to the real world.
- I want to make sure that all of my students have an opportunity to link this new knowledge with previous math knowledge.
I hope your answer to the question is not, “This is the next lesson in the book,” or “The curriculum mandates that I teach this.” Both of those things may be true, but I urge you to rethink your lesson and focus on an intention that will make a difference for the learning of your students.