Tag Archives: math flexibility

#ShowYourWork, make sense and persevere, flexibility with @IllustrateMath

How might we learn to show our work so that a reader understanding without having to ask questions? As we work with our young learners, we want them to grow as mathematicians and as communicators.

We ask students to show their work so that a reader understands without having to ask them questions. What details should we add so that our thinking is visible to others?

To show (and to assess) comprehension, we are looking for mathematical flexibility.

I taught 6th grade math today while Kristi and her team attended ASCD.  She asked me to work with our students on showing their work.  Here’s the plan:

Learning goals:

  • I can use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
  • I can show my work so that a reader can understanding without having to ask questions.


Learning progressions:

Level 4:
I can demonstrate mathematical flexibility with ratio and rate reasoning to show what I know more than one way using tables, equations, double number lines, etc..

Level 3:
I can use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Level 2:
I can make tables of equivalent ratios relating quantities with whole-number measurements, and I can use tables to compare ratios.

Level 1:
I can use guess and check to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Anticipated solutions:

Sample student work:

Growth mindset = effort + new strategies and feedback

What if we press forward in the face of resistance?

For me, the most frustrating moments happen when a learner says to me I already know how do this, and I can’t learn another way.
Me:  Can’t or don’t want to? Can’t yet?

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. (Dweck, n. pag.)

What if we offer a pathway for learners to help others learn, and at the same time, learn new strategies?

What if we deem the following as essential to learn?

I can demonstrate flexibility by showing what I know more than one way.

I can construct a viable argument, and I can critique the reasoning of other.

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

How might we provide pathways to target the struggles to learn new strategies, to construct a viable argument, and to critique the reasoning of others?

MathFlexibility #LL2LU


What if we press forward in the face of resistance and offer our learners who already know how to do this pathways to grow and learn?

How might we lead learners to level up?

Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol. “Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’” Education Week. Education Week, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 02 Oct. 2015.

Visual: Encouraging mathematical flexibility #LL2LU

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

People see mathematics in very different ways. And they can be very creative in solving problems. It is important to keep math creativity alive.


When you learn math in school, if a teacher shows you a method, think to yourself, what are the other ways of solving this? There are always others. Discuss them with your teacher or friends or parents. This will help you learn deeply.

I keep thinking about mathematical flexibility.  If serious about flexibility, how do we communicate to learners actions that they can take to practice?

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 8.05.42 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-19 at 7.58.42 PM

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?