Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a math workshop titled Conferring With Young Mathematicians at Work. Cathy Fosnot, an experienced educator, was the instructor. The focus of the workshop was focusing specifically on the role of questioning in relation to mathematical development using the landscape of learning. The landscapes of learning that we learned about were strategies, big ideas, and models to use when teaching Fractions, Decimals, Percents, Multiplication/Division, and Addition/Subtraction. Shapes were used to symbolize the landscapes including, (rectangles for strategies), (ovals for big ideas), and (triangles for models).
To engage students in problem solving, Cathy showed us the process of structuring a math conferral. A conferral is when students pair up to solve math problems and the teacher’s role is to facilitate and guide them in their quest to solve the problem. During these small group problem solving activities, the following questions were used to guide the students: How did you decide to start? What have you tried? Have you found a strategy that seems promising?
If a child is having difficulty, model what a mathematician might do to get started: For example, sometimes mathematicians start by modeling the problem, like on a number line (array, ratio table, etc.) They ask themselves, “What might be helpful for this type of problem? Does this problem remind me of any problems I’ve done before?”
Overall, students will begin to think of a strategy that will work with the numbers and teachers will support development not just fixing or correcting student work.
Troy Roth is a teacher at Blueberry School.