Friday, November 23, 2018

Tips, Tools & Tech for the Busy Teacher: Asking Questions & Human Rights Education in Math

Our library is subscribed to the digital and print format of Mathematics Teaching Middle School (MTMS) and Mathematics Teacher (MT), publications of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Of course, these resources were requested by our Math teachers a few years back and since then, they have been using the magazines and journals for teaching and instruction. What I like about MT and MTMS is that it has articles that discuss mathematics conceptually.

Take for example the issue of MT last October 2019. It has a discussion on human rights, human rights education and how allocation of resources like food production can be taught through math. Food is an experience common to all, likewise the access to food supply is a basic human right. Food shortage is a global problem. In an article by Blair Izard, Teaching Human Rights Through Mathematics, these personal and global issues on food are discussed with matching equations to show data and numbers that establish reason, logic and clarity. Honestly, my comprehension reached a bottle neck when Izard presented a set of equations. I leave that to the Math teachers!

What really piqued my interest was Izard's methods of discussion before engaging students in the equations she shared in the article. She began with the question: When will a community first experience a shortage of food? This led her students to wonder and ask for more information like, population and the amount of food a country produces. This led her to draw out more questions from her students and even added hers to the discussion such as,  what is one way a country could potentially run out of food? and what information would you need to know to determine whether a country might run out of food?

Allowing her students to understand the needed information to answer the questions, she provided the information on population and food supply. After which, she presented the equations so they can solve for answers together. There is further explanation on her methods and how in the middle and at the end of the class, they were still in discussion of their answers. There are concepts in the lesson as well as mathematic skills, drills and cooperative and collaborative experiences for students.

Asking questions and techniques to facilitate this experience in a math class is also a featured article in MTMS as the October Issue highlights three best practices on teaching inquiry. These are: funneling, focusing and IRE.

Funneling is the technique teachers use through sequencing questions to lead students to a specific answer or conclusion. Focusing is a strategy where the teacher listens to students and their questions, helps them think through their questions and encourages them to press on the important ones so that their thinking is guided towards answering or finding solutions to it. IRE is an acronym that stands for Inquire, Respond and Evaluate. Teacher inquires on a topic, a concept, a math equation and students respond by answering the teacher through discussions, drills, models and even more questions. Teacher then evaluated the response using a pre-determined criteria or standards.

These are higher order thinking skills that need to be done on a regular basis. Integrating this in class as a thinking routine or a method of inquiry that will help build students' critical thinking skills as well as their emotional stamina. Note that the teacher is always present in the strategies,  techniques and methods presented. This only goes to show that teachers do teach concepts and skills, but they are companions of students in the journey of inquiry and thinking processes.

Now I am beginning to look at Math from a different perspective!

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