Sunday, April 27, 2014

Organizing Information

New York Public Library

Max Ray’s talk at NCSM was about a math lesson he taught twice. The first time things didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. Max had the opportunity to reflect with his collaborators afterward. Luckily, they were going to teach the same lesson again to another group of students the same day. They decided what they wanted to do differently based on the results from the first group.

Here is the excellent write-up of that lesson by Max. The second go at the lesson is one in which the teachers respond to students who need support by modeling an organizational strategy. They actively avoid giving students hints about how they might mathematize the problem situation they’ve been given. It is no surprise that Max has done a nice job organizing the student-teacher-student volley into tables in his article. The outcomes in the second lesson are superior.

The ability to organize information is an important skill. When I observe students engaging in math problem-solving, often their success hinges on if and how they organize their work. Organizing information is also the key to great writing, troubleshooting, designing websites and databases, waiting tables, using spreadsheets, teaching, talking, and many other things. Here is Rob Lamb’s Collaborative Infographics for Science Literacy site, which also relates.

If you are a teacher, test it. See how students respond if you honor their ideas and teach only organizational strategies.