The math problem presented to your class is straightforward:
One hundred ants have 600 legs. How many legs do 10 ants have?
We ask a question. A student answers. We quickly note the answer as correct, maybe show an equation, and move on to the next question. Everything goes smoothly, and incorrect answers are quickly resolved with a standard procedure: a similar equation or approach to calculating the correct answer.
What if we stopped along the way and asked 'Why?' Or, "How do you know?' How about 'I wonder why that answer is correct?'
Questions are a beautiful, powerful force for change. Even seemingly simple math tasks can transform student understanding if we delve deeper into their underlying concepts.
Watch this short video that shows how questioning transforms a simple math problem into an interesting examination of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division:
What if you tried this?
To facilitate a growth mindset in your math classroom, try asking 1 or 2 follow up questions during class work:
How do you know your solution works?
Can you make a model of your solution?
Does that make sense to everyone? Can you explain?
How is your strategy the same or different than others?
Can we predict what would happen if...?
Questioning sends the message that you want students to actively participate in their learning. They are the main stakeholders, and this responsibility encourages deeper thinking and greater effort.
Change Isn't Easy
We are all conscious of the time tension in math class. Even so, when you ask probing questions, you not only reveal what your students understand, but also what don't yet understand. These questions and the discussion that follows may be a basis for your next lesson plan.