Category Archives: Learning Progressions

A lesson in making use of structure from/with @jmccalla1

Jeff McCalla, Confessions of a Wannabe Super Teacher, published some really good thinking about collaboration vs. competition.  In his post, he describes challenging his learners to investigate the following:

Which of these product rules could be used to quickly expand (x+y+3)(x+y-3)? Now, try expanding the expression.

Product Rules

Jennifer Wilson, Easing the Hurry Syndrome, and I have been tinkering with and drafting #LL2LU learning progressions for the Standards of Mathematical Practice. I have really struggled to get my head wrapped around the meaning of I can look for and make use of structure, SMP-7.  The current draft, to date, looks like this:

What if I tried to apply my understanding of I can look for and make use of structure to Jeff’s challenge?

Scan 1

Note: There is a right parenthesis missing in the figure above.
It should have (x+y)² in the area that represents (x+y)(x+y).

What if we coach our learners to make their thinking visible? What if we use learning progressions for self-assessment, motivation, and connected thinking? I admit that I was quite happy with myself with all that pretty algebra, but then I read the SMP-7 learning progression. Could I integrate geometric and algebraic reasoning to confirm structure? How flexible am I as a mathematical thinker? I lack confidence with geometric representation using algebra tiles, so it is not my go to strategy. However, in the geometric representation, I found what Jeff was seeking for his learners.  I needed to see x+y as a single object.

How might we model making thinking visible in conversation and in writing? How might we encourage productive peer-to-peer discourse around mathematics? How might we facilitate opportunities for in-the-moment self- and peer-assessment that is formative, constructive, and growth-oriented?

SMP7: Look For and Make Use of Structure #LL2LU

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 4.43.58 PMWe want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can look for and make use of structure.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7)

But…What if I think I can’t? What if I have no idea what “structure” means in the context of what we are learning?

How might we offer a pathway for success? What if we provide cues to guide learners and inspire interrogative self-talk?

Level 4
I can integrate geometric and algebraic representations to confirm structure and patterning.

Level 3
I can look for and make use of structure.

Level 2
I can rewrite an expression into an equivalent form, draw an auxiliary line to support an argument, or identify a pattern to make what isn’t pictured visible.

Level 1
I can compose and decompose numbers, expressions, and figures to make sense of the parts and of the whole.

Are observing, associating, questioning, and experimenting the foundations of this Standard for Mathematical Practice? It is about seeing things that aren’t readily visible.  It is about remix, composing and decomposing what is visible to understand in different ways.

How might we uncover and investigate patterns and symmetries? What if we teach the art of observation coupled with the art of inquiry?

In The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, Dryer, Gregersen, and Christensen describe what stops us from asking questions.

So what stops you from asking questions? The two great inhibitors to questions are: (1) not wanting to look stupid, and (2) not willing to be viewed as uncooperative or disagreeable.  The first problem starts when we’re in elementary school; we don’t want to be seen as stupid by our friends or the teacher, and it is far safer to stay quiet.  So we learn not to ask disruptive questions. Unfortunately, for most of us, this pattern follows us into adulthood.

What if we facilitate art of questioning sessions where all questions are considered? In his post, Fear of Bad Ideas, Seth Godin writes:

But many people are petrified of bad ideas. Ideas that make us look stupid or waste time or money or create some sort of backlash. The problem is that you can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.  Painters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, chiropractors, accountants–we all fail far more than we succeed.

How might we create safe harbors for ideas, questions, and observations? What if we encourage generating “bad ideas” so that we might uncover good ones? How might we shift perspectives to observe patterns and structure? What if we embrace the tactics for asking disruptive questions found in The Innovator’s DNA?

Tactic #1: Ask “what is” questions
Tactic #2: Ask “what caused” questions
Tactic #3: Ask “why and why not” questions
Tactic #4: Ask “what if” questions

What are barriers to finding structure? How else will we help learners look for and make use of structure?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]


Dyer, Jeff, Hal B. Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen. The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. Boston, MA: Harvard Business, 2011. Print.

 

Encouraging and anticipating mathematical flexibility

From Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math: for Students:

…we know that what separates high achievers from low achievers is not that high achievers know more math, it is that they interact with numbers flexibly and low achievers don’t.

I wonder how many times I’ve taught “the one way” to solve a problem without considering other pathways for success. Yikes!

IMG_4846After completing Lesson 4 from How to Learn Math: for Students, A-Sunshine, my 4th grader, asked me to solve another multiplication problem.  I wondered how many ways I could show my work and demonstrate flexibility in numeracy.  The urge to solve this multiplication problem in the traditional way was strong, but how many ways could I show how to multiply 44 x 18? How flexible am I when it comes to numeracy? Is the traditional method the most efficient? Are there other ways to show 44 x 18 that might demonstrate understanding?

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 7.42.16 PMHow might offer opportunities to express flexibility? Will learners share thinking and strategies? How will we facilitate discussions where multiple ways to “be right” are discussed?  What if we embrace Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion to anticipate, monitor, select, sequence, and make connections between student responses?

If my solutions represent the work and thinking of five different students, in what order would we sequence student sharing, and are we prepared to help make connections between different student responses?

How is flexibility encouraged and practiced? Is it expected? Is it anticipated?

And…does it stop with numbers? I don’t think so.  We want our learners of algebra to be flexible with

  • the slope-intercept, point-slope, and standard forms of a line and
  • the standard form, vertex form, and factored form of a parabola.

The list could go on and on.

How might we narrow what separates high achievers from low achievers? If number flexibility is a gateway to success, what actions are we willing to take to encourage, build confidence, and illuminate multiple pathways to success?

Visual: SMP-1 Make sense of problems and persevere #LL2LU

What if we display learning progressions in our learning space to show a pathway for learners? After Jennifer Wilson (Easing the Hurry Syndrome) and I published SMP-1: Make sense of problems and persevere #LL2LU, I wondered how we might display this learning progression in classrooms. Dabbling with doodling, I drafted this visual for classroom use. Many thanks to Sam Gough for immediate feedback and encouragement during the doodling process.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 1.21.17 PMI wonder how each of my teammates will use this with student-learners. I am curious to know student-learner reaction, feedback, and comments. If you have feedback, I would appreciate having it too.

What if we are deliberate in our coaching to encourage learners to self-assess, question, and stretch?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]

SMP-1: Make sense of problems and persevere #LL2LU

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 3.23.09 AM

We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1)

But…What if I think I can’t? What if I’m stuck? What if I feel lost, confused, or discouraged?

How might we offer a pathway for success? What if we provide cues to guide learners and inspire interrogative self-talk?

  • Level 4:
    I can find a second or third solution and describe how the pathways to these solutions relate.
  • Level 3:
    I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Level 2:
    I can ask questions to clarify the problem, and I can keep working when things aren’t going well and try again.
  • Level 1:
    I can show at least one attempt to investigate or solve the task.

In Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning, Dr. Jim Stigler, UCLA, talks about a study giving first grade American and Japanese students an impossible math problem to solve. The American students worked on average for less than 30 seconds; the Japanese students had to be stopped from working on the problem after an hour when the session was over.

How might we bridge the difference in our cultures to build persistence to solve problems in our students?

NCTM’s recent publication, Principles to Action, in the Mathematics Teaching Practices, calls us to support productive struggle in learning mathematics. How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task? They are accustomed to giving up when they can’t solve a problem immediately and quickly. How do we change the practice of how our students learn mathematics?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]