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What Should I Look for in a Math Classroom?

A math classroom should provide practical experience in mathematical skills that are a bridge to the real world of jobs and adult responsibilities. This means going beyond memorization into a world of reasoning and problem solving.

Sounds good, but how will I recognize a good math classroom when I see it?

Look for the following actions by students and teachers. If you see them, you will be looking at a classroom that is preparing students for the world and beyond.

What Are Students Doing?

  • Interacting with each other, as well as working independently, just as adults do.

  • Using textbooks as one of many resources. Students should know how and when to use manipulatives (such as blocks and scales) and technology (such as calculators and computers) as problem-solving tools.

  • Applying math to real life problems and not just practicing a collection of isolated skills. Lots of time is allowed for solving complex problems.

  • Seeking a best solution among several solutions to a problem. Students can explain the different ways they reach these solutions, and defend the choice of one over another.

  • Working in groups to test solutions to problems with each group member highly involved.

  • Communicating mathematical ideas to one another through exapmles, demonstrations, models, drawings, and logical arguments.

  • Working in teams to challenge and defend possible solutions. Students help each other to learn.

What Are Teachers Doing?

  • Guiding students in exploring multiple solutions to any problems; challenging students to think deeply.

  • Moving around the room to keep everyone engaged in productive work.

  • Encouraging students to raise and discuss questions about math for which there are no textbook answers. Rather than simply answering these questions, teachers are helping students to gain mathematical competence and confidence by finding their own solutions.

  • Guiding students in making appropriate use of manipulatives and technology.

  • Promoting student use of inquiry and creativity. Students are moved to higher levels of learning by pursuing alternative approaches to solvving a problem or by proposing new problems that are variations on, or extensions of, a given problem.

  • Bringing a variety of learning resources, including guest presenters, into the classroom in order to increase learning options for all students.

  • Working with other teachers to make connections between disciplines to show how math is a part of other major subjects that students are studying.

  • Using assessment that focuses on problem solving and understanding rather than on memory and speed.

  • Helping all students to explore career opportunities that use the mathematics that they are learning.
Look Closely at a Math Class in Today's Schools.

Mathematics is the language of the 21st century — those who want to be heard will have to speak it. Reading, writing, picturing, and talking about mathematics are basic skills that help us to understand and explain our world.

Mathematical Thinking is an all-purpose tool. It can be applied throughout a lifetime to recognize and clarify problems, to locate and make sense of information, to explore several solutions in search of information, to explore several solutions in search of a best solution, and to argue with confidence for acceptance of that best solution.

Mathematics is nourishment for 21st century minds. It's non fattening and cholesterol free. It can be available in your local classrooms if you know what to ask for. Help your schools to serve up the best mathematics available, and make certain that the students in your community take some home today.

What Should I Look for in a Math Classroom? was developed by The Math Connection.
Members of the Math Connection are:
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, Mathematical Association of America, Mathematical Association of America, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National School Boards Association

The Annenberg Media Math and Science Project has funded more than 35 educational reform efforts. These projects educate and support groups of adults who have a hand in changing the way math and science are taught, including parents, teachers, teacher educators, administrators and policymakers. Projects funded place strong emphasis on building human coalitions and networks as well as electronic ones. the Project's mission is to engage as many adults as possible in the math and science education reform movement.

To order more copies of this brochure of to receive a free catalog of the Anneberg/CPB Math and Science Collection write or call: P.O. Box 2345, S. Burlington, VT 05407-2345
1-800-965-7373 or visit out Web site at:

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