Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say!

Author(s): STEVEN C. REINHART
Source: Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, Vol. 5, No. 8 (APRIL 2000), pp. 478-483
Published by: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41180868 .
Accessed: 23/05/2013 10:10
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend
access to Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

STEVEN

С. REINHART

FTER EXTENSIVEPLANNING,I PREsentedwhatshouldhavebeena master'
lesson.I workedseveralexamples
piece
'"£}*?:%v
on the overheadprojector,answered
everystudent'squestionin greatdetail,and explainedtheconceptso clearlythatsurelymystudentsunderstood.
The nextday,however,it became obvious that the studentswere totally
In myearlyyearsofteaching,
confused.
thissituation happened all too often. Even
thoughobservations
by my principal
clearlypointedoutthatI wasverygood
at explainingmathematics
to my stuknewmysubjectmatter
2 dents,
well,and
reallyseemedtobe a dedicatedandcarwas wrong.My
ingteacher,something
werecapableoflearning
much
I students
morethantheydisplayed.

i

Beforelong,I noticedthatthefamiliar
teacherdirect-instruction
modeloftendid notfit
centered,
well withthe morein-depth
problemsand tasks
thatI was using.The information
thatI had gathered also suggestedteachingin nontraditional
ways.Itwas notenoughto teachbettermathematbetter.Making
ics; I also hadtoteachmathematics
because I
changesin instruction
proveddifficult
had to learnto teachin waysthatI had neverobservedorexperienced,
challenging
manyoftheold
As I movedfromtraditional
teachingparadigms.
methodsofinstruction
to a morestudent-centered,
enproblem-based
approach,manyofmystudents
joyedmyclassesmore.Theyreallyseemedto like
workingtogether,discussingand sharingtheir
ideasandsolutions
totheinteresting,
oftencontexthatI posed.The smallchangesthat
tual,problems
I implemented
eachyearbeganto showresults.In
fiveyears,I had almostcompletely
changedboth
whatandhowI wasteaching.

'l Implementing
ChangeoverTime
Iaо THE LOW LEVELSOF ACHIEVEMENT
TheFundamental
Flaw
ofmanystudents
causedmetoquestion
ATSOMEPOINTDURINGTHISMETAMORPHOSIS,
andmysearchfora
m howI was teaching,
I concludedthata fundamental
betterapproachbegan.Makinga comflawexistedin my
'i
о
|o mitment
in
to
10
of
methods.
When
I
was
front
oftheclass
change
percent
teaching
my
о
I
and explaining,I was learninga
teachingeach year,I beganto collect
demonstrating
anduse materials
and ideasgatheredfromsupple- greatdeal,butmanyofmystudents
werenot!EvenI concludedthatifmystudents
wereto ever
ments,workshops,
professional
journals,and unitually,
classes.Each year,mygoal was simplyto
wouldhavetodo the
versity
reallylearnmathematics,
they
teacha singletopicin a betterwaythanI had the
and /,thelistening.
ofa
explaining,
My definition
yearbefore.
goodteacherhas sincechangedfrom"onewhoexto
plainsthingsso wellthatstudentsunderstand"
STEVE REINHART,Steve_reinhart@wetn.pbs.org,
teaches
"one who gets studentsto explainthingsso well
mathematics
at ChippewaFalls Middle School,Chippewa
thattheycanbe understood."
in theteachingofalgemiddleschoolstudentsto explaintheir
Falls, WI 54729. He is interested
Getting
braic thinking
at themiddleschoolleveland in theprofesinclassroom
andbecomeactively
involved
thinking
sional development
discussionscan be a challenge.By nature,these
ofteachers.
478

MATHEMATICS TEACHING IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1

I
û

¡

il
Thisinsestudents
areself-conscious
andinsecure.
curityand the effectsof negativepeer pressure
To get beyond
tend to discourageinvolvement.
I havelearnedto ask
theseand otherroadblocks,
thebestpossiblequestionsand to applystrategies
toparticipate.
the
thatrequireallstudents
Adopting
the strategiesand quesgoals and implementing
tioning
techniquesthatfollowhavehelpedme deskills.At the
velop and improvemyquestioning
sametime,thesegoalsand strategies
helpme crein whichstudents
are
ate a classroomatmosphere
and feel
actively
engagedin learningmathematics
comfortable
insharing
anddiscussing
ideas,asking
andtakingrisks.
questions,

QuestioningStrategiesThatWorkforMe
ALTHOUGHGOOD TEACHERSPLANDETAILED
lessonsthatfocusonthemathematical
few
content,
takethe timeto planto use specificquestioning
on a regularbasis.Improving
techniques
question-

and takes
ing skills is difficult
time, practice, and planning. CfnHotlfc
Strategiesthat work once will giuucnw

fool
ICCI

work
a COITlfOrtâblC
againandagain.Making
-

listof good ideas and strategies

-

thelistregu-St1âril1§ d ПО
that
work,
revisiting
to practiceselarly,and planning
fijcAiiccing
lectedtechniques
indailylessons *•*"bť 11ЬЫ I Ig

willmake
a difference.

¡(163S

is a
Createa plan.The following
fromthe
listofreminders
thatI haveaccumulated
manyoutstandingteacherswithwhom I have
workedoverseveralyears.I revisitthislistoften.
Noneoftheseideas is new,and I can claimnone,
exceptthe firstone, as myown.Althoughimplementing
anysinglesuggestionfromthislistmay
these
notresultin majorchange,used together,
a classroom.Atsuggestionscan help transform
tochangetoomuchtoofastmayresultin
tempting
a littleata timeby
frustration
andfailure.
Changing
VOL. 5, NO. 8 • APRIL 2000 479

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

oneortwostrateandrefining
selecting,
practicing,
gies or skillsbeforemovingon tootherscan result
in continual,incremental
growth.Implementing
oneortwotechniques
ata timealso makesiteasier
forstudents
to acceptandadjustto thenewexpectations
andstandards
beingestablished.

ask myself
thehumbling
of
question"Whatpercent
willactually
be listening
tome?"
mystudents

5. Be patient.Waittimeis veryimportant.
Althoughsome studentsalwaysseem to have their
handsraisedimmediately,
mostneedmoretimeto
IfI alwayscallon oneofthe
processtheirthoughts.
I am cheatingthose
firststudents
whovolunteers,
1. Neversay anything
a kid can say!This one
I do notthink
whoneedmoretimeto thinkabout,andprocessa
that
goalkeepsmefocused.Although
inanyone day
I haveevermetthisgoalcompletely
responseto,myquestion.Evenverycapablestuand many
or evenin a givenclass period,ithas forcedme to
dentscan beginto doubttheirabilities,
skills.It also
aboutmyquestionsaltoeventually
stopthinking
developand improvemyquestioning
thattheirparticipation gether.Increasingwait timeto fiveseconds or
sendsa messagetostudents
is essential.EverytimeI amtempted longercanresultinmoreandbetterresponses.
I tryto
to tell studentssomething,
I was unask a questioninstead.
Good discussionstake time;at first,
intakingso muchtimetodiscussa sincomfortable
The urgetosimply
tellmy
2. Ask good questions. Good
gle questionorproblem.
studentsand moveon forthe sake ofexpedience
questionsrequiremorethanrecallI began to see the
was considerable.Eventually,
a skill.By
l| inga factor reproducing
askinggood questions,I encourage valueinwhatI nowreferto as a "lessis more"philearnmore
studentsto thinkabout,and reflect losophy.I nowbelievethatall students
on,the mathematics
problemandgivethem
theyare learn- whenI pose a high-quality
shouldbe abletolearn
the necessarytimeto investigate,
ing.A student
processtheir
fromanswering
andreflect
on anddefendtheirfindings.
thoughts,
myquestion,and I
shouldbe able to learnsomething
about what the studentknows or
Share with students reasons for asking
does notknowfromher or his re
questions. Studentsshould understandthatall
arevaluabletome,eveniftheyare
theirstatements
sponse. Quite simply,I ask good
I explainthatI
or showmisconceptions.
questionsto get studentsto think incorrect
me aboutwhatthey
askthemquestionsbecauseI amcontinuously
evaland to inform
know.The bestquestionsare openuatingwhatthe class knowsor does not know.
Theircomments
ended,thoseforwhichmorethan
helpme makedecisionsandplan
thenextactivities.
one way to solve the problemor
morethanone acceptableresponse
are tovaluemy
bepossible.
Teach forsuccess. Ifstudents
may
ThG beSt
I cannot
questionsand be involvedin discussions,
3. Use moreprocessquestions use questionsto embarrassor punish.Such quesQU6S HOMO ЭГ6
*ап Pr°ductquestions.Product tionsaccomplishlittleand can makeit morediffiОПРП-РпНрН
"
- thosethatrequireshort
inwhichstudents
feel
culttocreatean atmosphere
questions
answersor a yes or no responseor
comfortable
sharingideasandtakingrisks.Ifa stuI moveon toanother
torespond,
thosethatrelyalmostcompletely
on
dentis struggling
As
I
listen
to
student
conversations
little
information
about
what
a
student
quickly.
memoryprovide
thosewho
studentknows.To findoutwhata studentunder- and observetheirwork,I also identify
to share.Askinga
have good ideas or comments
stands,I askprocessquestionsthatrequirethestudenttoreflect,
analyze,andexplainhisorherthink- shy,quietstudenta questionwhenI knowthathe
for
or she has a good responseis a greatstrategy
ing and reasoning.Process questions require
I
tothinkatmuchhigherlevels.
and self-esteem.
students
Frequently,
buildingconfidence
alertthestudent
aheadoftime:"That'sa greatidea.
4. Replacelectureswithsetsofquestions.When
Fd reallylikeyouto sharethatwiththeclass in a
in
to
information
the
form
of
a
lecfew
minutes."
tempted present
ofa lecture:
ofthisdefinition
ture,I remindmyself
about a responseor com"Thetransfer
ofinformation
fromthenotesofthe
Be nonjudgmental
in encouraging
lecturer
tothenotesofthestudent
without
ment. This goal is indispensable
passing
IfI amstilltempted,
I
discourse.Imaginebeingin a classroomwherethe
themindsofeither."
through
480

MATHEMATICS TEACHING IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

i
i

i
teachermakesthiscomment:
"Wow!Brittni,
that
dentsare to listento one another
wasa terrific,
Who'snext?"Not
and value one another'sinput,I
insightful
response!
havetheconfidence
to
cannotrepeator tryto improve g ■ i j
i
manymiddleschoolstudents
follow
a responsethathasbeenpraisedso highly
onwhattheysay.Ifstudents
real- ■-"I blUUei i Ib
by
a teacher.Ifa student's
or clarifyf;f¿ir|fv
responserevealsa miscon- ize thatI willrepeat
™ their
andtheteacherrepliesina negative
whatanotherstudentsays,they
ception
way,the
studentmay be discouragedfromvolunteering nolonger
havea reason
tolisten.ОWO tliïlikïïif^
I mustbe patient
andletstudents
again. Instead,encouragemore discussionand
moveon to thenextcomment.
students
distheirownthinking
andenOften,
clarify
discovertheirownerrors, couragethemto speak to their
agreewithone another,
andcorrecttheirthinking.
students
to lisclassmates,notjustto me.All studentscan speak
Allowing
- I haveheardtheminthehalls!Yet I must
tentofellow
classmates
is a farmorepositive
louder
wayto
deal withmisconceptions
thanannouncing
to the
be carefulnotto embarrasssomeonewitha quiet
classthatan answeris incorrect.
Ifseveralstudents voice.Because studentsknowthatI neveraccept
I mightsay,"I'mhearingthatwe
remainconfused,
ofmyasking
justone response,theythinknothing
do notagreeonthisissue.Yourcomments
andideas
anotherstudent
toparaphrase
thesoft-spoken
comhavegivenme an idea foran activity
thatwillhelp
mentsofa classmate.
I thenplanto revisit
the
youclarify
yourthinking."
withanother
as soonas possible.
"Is this the right answer?" Studentsfreconcept
activity
quentlyask thisquestion.My usual responseto
thisquestionmightbe that"I'mnotsure.Can you
Trynot to repeat students'answers. IfstuVOL. 5, NO. 8 • APRIL 2000 481

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

tome?"As soonas I tella stuexplainyourthinking
dentthatthe answeris correct,
thinking
stops.If
studentsexplaintheirthinkingclearly,I ask a
'Whatif?"questionto encouragethemto extend
theirthinking.
Participationis notoptional!I remind
mystudentsofthisexpectation
Whether
workregularly.
ingin smallgroupsor discussinga problemwith
thewholeclass,each studentis expectedto contribute
hisorherfairshare.Becausereminding
studentsofthisexpectation
is notenough,I also regularlyapplyseveralofthefollowing
techniques:

NO 0П6

£■ ■ ■

¡S

1. Use the think-pair-share
stratdiscussions
are
Whole-group
egy.
usuallyimproved
byusingthistechnique.WhenI pose a newproblem;
task,or activpresenta newproject,
or
ask
a
ity; simply
question,all studentsmustthinkandworkindependentlyfirst.In the past, letting
students
on
beginworking
together
a taskalwaysalloweda fewstudents
to sit back whileotherstookover.
Requiringstudentsto workalone
first
reducesthisproblem
byplacing
the responsibility
for learningon
each student.This independent
worktimemayvaryfroma fewminutes to the entireclass period,dependingonthetask.
After
students
havehadadequate
timeto workindependently,
they
are paired with partnersor join
■■■

Inthesegroups,
smallgroups.
each
studentis requiredto reporthis or

herfindings
or summarize
hisor
finished Until
^er
s°lution
When
teams
process.
oil лип
an
ban ovni 21in

expiam have
hadthechance
t0share
their

the SOllltiOn

insmall
wecome
thoughts
groups,

as a classtoshareourfindtogether
I
do
notcallforvolunteers
but
ings.
ask
one
student
to
simply
reporton
a significant
in
discussed
the
point
group.I might
will
share
with
the
class one imsay,"Tanya, you
made?"
or "James,
portantdiscovery
yourgroup
summarize
for
us
what
Adam
shared
with
please
Students
feel
much
more
confident
you."
generally
in statingideas whentheresponsibility
forthereis
shared
with
a
sponse being
partneror group.
the
Using think-pair-share
strategy
helpsme send
themessagethatparticipation
is notoptional.
A modified
versionofthisstrategy
also worksin
If
I
discussions.
do
not
the
whole-group
get responses

482

thatI expect,eitherinquantity
or quality,
I givestudentsa chanceto discussthe questionin small
ofthequestion,
groups.On thebasisofthedifficulty
have
as
little
as
fifteen
seconds
oras longas
theymay
severalminutesto discussthe questionwiththeir
This strategy
has helpedimprove
discuspartners.
sionsmorethananyothersthatI haveadopted.
2. If studentsor groupscannotanswera questionor contribute
to the discussionin a positive
must
ask
a questionoftheclass.I explain
way,they
thatitis all rightto be confused,
butstudentsare
for
responsible askingquestionsthatmighthelp
themunderstand.
3. Alwaysrequirestudentsto ask a question
whentheyneedhelp.Whena student
says,"I don't
he
or
she
be
"Show
mean
it,"
get
mayreally saying,
to
do
this
so
I
don't
have
to
think."
Inieasy way
students
to
ask
a
is
a
tially,
getting
question bigimover
"I
it."
don't
soonrealprovement
get Students
ize thatmystandardsrequirethemto thinkabout
theprobleminenoughdepthtoask a question.
4. Requireseveralresponsesto the same question.Neveracceptonlyone responseto a question.
clarificaadditions,
Alwaysask forothercomments,
ormethods.
Thisrequestis difficult
tions,solutions,
forstudents
at first
becausetheyhavebeenconditionedtobelievethatonlyoneansweris correct
and
thatonlyonecorrect
is
to
solve
a
way possible
problem. I explainthatforthemto become better
themanypossible
thinkers,
theyneedtoinvestigate
of
about
a
Eveniftwostuways thinking
problem.
dentsuse thesamemethodtosolvea problem,
they
in exactlythe same
rarelyexplaintheirthinking
unway.Multipleexplanations
helpotherstudents
derstandand clarify
theirthinking.
One goal is to
createa student-centered
classroomin whichstudentsare responsible
forthe conversation.
To acI
this
not
to
comment
after
each
complish goal, try
I
wait
for
stuand
the
next
response. simply
pause
denttooffer
Ifthepausealonedoes not
comments.
I mayask,"Next?"or
discussion,
generatefurther
"Whatdo youthinkabout
's idea?"
in
5. No oneina groupis finished
untileveryone
thegroupcanexplainanddefendthesolution.
This
rule forcesstudentsto worktogether,
communiand
be
for
the
cate,
responsible
learningofeveryone inthegroup.The learning
ofanyonepersonis
oflittlevalueunlessitcanbe communicated
toothand
those
who
would
rather
work
on
their
own
ers,
oftenneed encouragement
to developvaluable
communication
skills.

MATHEMATICS TEACHING IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

6. Use handsignalsoften.Usinghandsignals
thumbsup or thumbsdown (a horizontal
thumb
meansTm notsure")- accomplishestwothings.
First,by requiringall studentsto respondwith
handsignals,I ensurethatall students
are on task.
theresponses,I can findout
Second,byobserving
howmanystudents
are havingdifficulty
or do not
understand.
students'
facesas theythink
Watching
abouthowtorespondis veryrevealing.
7. Nevercarrya pencil.IfI carrya pencilwithme
todo the
orpickup a studenťspencil,I amtempted
workforthestudent.
Instead,I musttaketimeto
ask thought-provoking
questionsthatwilllead to
understanding.
8.Avoidanswering
Answering
myownquestions.
students
becauseit
myownquestions
onlyconfuses
I really
want
themtoguesswhichquestions
requires
themtothinkabout,andI wantthemtothinkabout
I alsoavoidrhetorical
allmyquestions.
questions.
9. Askquestionsofthewholegroup.As soonas I
I suggestto the
directa questionto an individual,
thattheyarenolongerrequired
restofthestudents
tothink.
10.limittheuse ofgroupresponses.Groupresponseslowerthelevelofconcernand allowsome
students
tohideandnotthinkaboutmyquestions.
11.Do notallowstudents
toblurtoutanswers.A
studenťsblurtedoutansweris a signalto therest
oftheclassto stopthinking.
Students
whodevelop
thishabitmustrealizethattheyare cheatingother
oftheright
students
tothinkaboutthequestion.

Summary
LIKEMOSTTEACHERS,
I ENTEREDTHETEACHING
becauseI careaboutchildren.
It is only
profession
natural
formetowantthemtobe successful,
butby
merelytellingthemanswers,doing thingsfor
I relievestudents
themshortcuts,
them,orshowing
oftheirresponsibilities
and cheatthemoftheopthat
to makesense of the mathematics
portunity
To helpstudentsengagein real
theyare learning.
I mustaskgoodquestions,
allowstudents
learning,
tostruggle,
andplacetheresponsibility
forlearning
on theirshoulders.I am convincedthat
directly
childrenlearnin morewaysthanI knowhow to
tothem,I notonlygivethemthe
teach.Bylistening
todevelopdeepunderstanding
butalso
opportunity
am able to developtrueinsightsintowhatthey
knowandhowtheythink.

Q ;
cr

ë:
к j

о

I

(Л i

?
i

i

Q. I

and
Makingextensivechanges in curriculum
instruction
is a challenging
process.Muchcan be
learnedabouthowchildrenthinkand learn,from
recentpublications
aboutlearningstyles,multiple
andbrainresearch.Also,severalreintelligences,
formcurriculum
projectsfundedby the National
Science Foundationare now availablefrompublishers. The Connected MathematicsProject,
Mathematicsin Context,and Math Scape, to
namea few,artfully
addressissues ofcontentand
pedagogy.

Bibliography
Burns, Marilyn.Mathematics:For Middle School. New
Rochelle,N.Y.: CuisenaireCo. ofAmerica,1989.
Johnson,David R. EveryMinuteCounts.Palo Alto,Calif.:
Dale SeymourPublications,1982.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics(NCTM).
Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics.
Reston,Va.: NCTM, 1991.(D
VOL. 5, NO. 8 • APRIL 2000 483

This content downloaded from 129.130.252.222 on Thu, 23 May 2013 10:10:38 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions