Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Problem-Solving Skills, Movement, and a great book

I have spent a lot of time this summer thinking about how to create a classroom environment that emphasizes and rewards problem-solving resilience, creative thinking, enthusiasm and risk-taking over the black and white of right and wrong. 
Here's a great article from Edutopia that discusses the growth mindset, and refers you to Carol Dweck's research. 
Don't misunderstand me, I teach math, and calculation skills, accuracy, correctness are all important.  However, the process by which you get there is even more important.  When it's all right and wrong, those who are accustomed to being wrong will find themselves back in familiar territory. Those who are used to being right, won't risk being wrong.  I want these students excited about their ideas, and eager to participate because their ideas are celebrated. 
My classroom environment leans this way because it is my nature.  However, this year, I am actively compiling strategies that support the thinking over the answer for part of each class.

So, here's a book I picked up at the NCTM conference in April.  The first section has a set of great, quick activities titled "What Doesn't Belong?".  There are four choices for each and multiple interpretations.  Students are encouraged to record their observations.  I'm planning to hang the letters ABCD in my room, and will ask students to stand by the letter representing the choice they want to explain.  Thinking, moving, sharing... I'm all over it.

Example of "What Doesn't Belong"

 School begins soon.  My brain is buzzing...  thanks for reading.  Please share your strategies for encouraging creative thinking.


  1. Nice. It IS all about the process. Enjoying your new blog!

  2. This is fun! I could go two ways: A doesn't belong because of the number 4, an even number. The other three are odd numbers, 1, 3, and 5. Or...B doesn't belong because it has two variables with exponents versus A, C, and D with two variables having exponents.

    Creative thinking in the classroom? Especially in math classrooms? Take away the calculators that I am seeing handed out as the kids walk into the room (I subbed for awhile). They need to understand and know how to do calculations instead of relying on a calculator to do it for them!!

    1. Exactly. Observing, thinking, and articulating. That's the goal for this exercise.
      And, I agree about calculators. In my classroom, we only use them with my permission. The math department goal was to improve the computation skills for all our students so sometimes, pencil to paper is the way to go.

  3. Used this plan the other day as our do now. Turns out, the language of "What doesn't belong" was challenging for some students to understand. I have added a quick vocabulary review to my lesson. I needed to remind them that "What Doesn't Belong?" means they need to find a common characteristic for three of the choices, which leaves one out. That's the one that doesn't belong.