Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
|Introduction | Mathematical Communication in Young Children | Additional Strategies | The Teacher's Role | Summary | Your Journal|
Although communication skills increase in the course of a child's overall development, the teacher plays an important role in connecting the development of those skills to the development of mathematical thinking.
Problems that are challenging and interesting to young students should be an integral part of the mathematics program in the early years. As students solve problems, they should explain their thinking both orally and in writing, and they should be given many opportunities to talk with and listen to their peers.
Orchestrating all of this in a classroom of four or five year olds is not an easy task! One model of classroom organization is to begin by posing the problem to the entire class with as much support information as needed to help students understand the task. Students then work in small groups (or pairs) to solve the problem. During the small-group time, the teacher circulates around the classroom, "eavesdropping" on student conversations and asking questions that focus on their thinking.
If students are having difficulty starting the task, the teacher's role is to ask questions to help redirect them. Here are some examples:
What have you done so far?
What do you need to do?
What if you begin by . . . ?
Can you tell me about . . . ?
Can you draw a picture of . . . ?
Can you show me . . . ?
If a group is solving the problem with little difficulty, the teacher's questions should probe students to explain their thinking and to focus on the strategy they are using to solve the problem, for example:
Can you tell me how you got that answer?
Is there another way to do that?
Did you find another answer?
How do you know that you've found all the ways to . . . ?
If a group has completed the task, the teacher's questions should help to stretch students' thinking by expecting them to think more deeply about the task or by extending the task, for example:
What if you . . . ?
Suppose there were . . . ?
Can you find another way to solve the problem?
What other question could you ask about . . . ?
After the small-group work, in this model, the entire class reconvenes to talk about the strategies students used to solve the problem. This is where children can use the many forms of communication to share their thinking and understand the thinking of others. This whole-class discussion gives students opportunities to think about different ways to approach a problem or complete a task, and it ties the whole activity together.
There is opportunity for a great deal of communication in each phase of this model: Students communicate about their ideas, teachers listen and ask questions to assess students' understanding, and students listen to one another's ideas and strategies.
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