Our Math Solutions trainer recommended the book "Faster Isn't Smarter" by Cathy Seeley. This book points out that as teachers we sometimes do not ask enough of our students. We tend to tell them the procedure, tools, or most effective approach to a problem. But students need to struggle...constructively. By providing this complexity in our classrooms, we ask students to persevere, analyze, and critically think.
In "Faster Isn't Smarter," Cathy Seeley defines constructive struggling as:
"Constructive struggling can take place when a teacher decides that one demanding, possibly time-consuming problem will likely provide more learning value than several shorter but more obvious problems. Constructive struggling involves presenting students with problems that call for more than a superficial application of a rote procedure. Constructive struggling occurs when an effective teacher knows how to provide guiding questions in a way that stops short of telling students everything they need to know to solve a problem."(For the full article, please click here.)
When we left the professional development, my teammate and I knew what we needed to do. Provide this challenge by being more comfortable with the struggle that may occur, by posing less questions but more demanding ones, and by analyzing the story problems we currently use.
For the past two years we have used "Problem Solving with Story Boxes." This is a free document that includes a year long set of themed story problems. The kids love it, we love it but we also know that we can add more "constructive struggle" to some of these problems. Not every problem because we want a balance...but some. To make them higher level tasks, we need to make them more open ended to allow for multiple answers. The problems must also allow students to make connections and help them to make sense of mathematics.
So I tried out my new learning. Here are two examples of what I did with some story problems from one of the units in "Problem Solving with Story Boxes."
My upcoming year will involve a lot of this type of change and reflection. Does this seem like something you need to add to your classroom or do you have resources that provide this type of struggle already?