Teaching
Our Youngest Mathematicians to Think About Their Thinking
Sarah Picard
An
important part of teaching math to children in the early grades
is teaching them to see themselves as mathematicians. As they grow,
they begin to understand not only new math concepts, but also how
they, as unique problem solvers, approach these mathematical concepts.
Following is some practical advice for teaching young students to
think about their own thinking and to selfassess the ways they
solve problems.
Math
Interviews
Many teachers interview their students a few times each year for
two purposes: for the teachers to better understand the student
and for the students to better understand the teacher. In the very
early grades teachers may ask students to draw a picture of how
she feels during math time. When you interview a student you may
also ask him or her to write about the ways he or she solves problems,
the kind of math problems the student likes to work on, kids in
the class that student likes to work with during math time, etc.
Name:
______________________________________ Date: __________________
This is a picture of me during math workshop:

And here's a
survey for your young mathematicians:
Name:
________________________________ Date: _______________________
What do you like about math workshop?
What can you do to help other kids during math workshop?
What math
tools do you use when you solve problems?
What strategies
do you usually use?
What is
the hardest part of math workshop?

Conferring
with Students
As students are solving problems during math workshop, the teacher
often sits beside children coaching them to use strategies. In order
to teach our youngest students to think about their thinking, we
can ask questions like the following:
 What strategies
are you using?
 What tools
are you using?
 What is
hard about this problem?
Some students
need the teacher to define the tools or strategies they are using.
As teachers confer, it is also important that they compliment the
students with specific language. A good compliment is one that names
the strategy and tool the student is using. For example:
“I
like the way you are reading the word problem over and over to
understand what you need to do.”
“I
like the way you are using the 100 chart to count up as you solve
this problem.”
“I
like the way you are using the color tiles to calculate the area
of this rectangle.”
The more a teacher
compliments, using the language of mathematicians, the more the
students will take on this language as their own, speaking and listening
to the ways they, and their classmates, solve problems.
