Observing Student Problem Solving
 Introduction | Building Staircases | Student Work #1 | Problem Reflection #1 | Student Work #2 | Problem Reflection #2 | Classroom Practice | Observe a Classroom | Your Journal

Think about the student work and reflect on the following questions. When you've formulated an answer to each question, select "Show Answer" to see a sample response.

 1. As Tyler and Li begin work, they make a diagram that has an error. What does the teacher do to correct it? Show Answer
 Sample Answer: By asking questions, the teacher does confirm that the students understand the problem and that the incorrect drawing is an error they understand. Her questions guide them to correct the diagram on their own, and she reminds them to make sure they also correct the table. Students' conceptual understanding and their ability to accurately and legibly record their thoughts are often at different levels. Teachers should be sure to check both what the student understands and how the student work relates to that understanding. Is it a conceptual problem, or just a problem getting thoughts down on paper accurately?
 2. How do the tiles and the diagram support a strategy for finding a rule? Show Answer
 Sample Answer: By working with the tiles and recording their investigations on paper, the students have begun to see that the process of adding a square is iterative, suggesting a repeating rule. By choosing a numbering scheme for the staircases, they have found a pattern. However, they haven't yet worked with this understanding in a table or begun to generalize it.
 3. How does the teacher ask the students to communicate about the problem and explain their rule? Show Answer
 Sample Answer: When Tyler or Li use informal language like "push up" to describe the process or rule, Ms. Nguyen asks a clarifying question and to see an explanation using the diagram. She is looking to see if they can explain it clearly enough that someone else would be able to understand how to build the staircase. Part of the problem-solving task is not only reaching a solution method, but also being able to communicate that solution method in mathematical language that is intelligible to others and appropriate to the task.

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