It seems like feelings toward challenging math problems tend to lean toward extremes. Students either really enjoy them or they really don’t. Many of my goals for this year revolve around math, including helping students stay motivated, even when the problems get tough. I’m working toward having a math class where students take on challenges with optimism and enthusiasm.
Today, I’d like to share some strategies I read about regarding conferring with students when they are stuck and aren’t sure where to start.
The focus of my professional reading this summer has been on helping students overcome obstacles when tackling tough math problems. This year, I am going to model my approach to math conferences based on Catherine Fosnot’s awesome book, Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work. You can read more about this book on my post here.
I plan to start off the year with some discussion on appreciating and valuing math struggles. Fosnot suggests using quotes from mathematicians to lead discussions on the value of “being stuck”. I hope that some of these quotes will bring an understanding that even famous mathematicians get stuck. In fact, that’s what keeps them going!
*Acknowledge and celebrate any math that was done correctly.
*If the process seems to be going well, but the answer is incorrect, try saying something like, “Let’s make sure that we got that correct.” Focus on the process.
I will keep you posted on how these strategies are working. Right now, I am going to continue my reading and resource gathering. We just have 2 1/2 short weeks of summer left, so I’m definitely in “back to school mode”.