Taking on the Challenge

And the moral of the story is….

Ugh!  A didactic tale can fall flat. With little meaningful connection to the story the message is seldom remembered or lost to the reader.  You may identify with this.  I for one, recognize this didactic interaction not only in books but in my classroom.

Lesson 4  of How to Learn Math with Jo Boaler  describes the didactic contract in the classroom.  See if you recognize it.

The Didactic Contract  identified by by Guy Brouseau, states that there are certain expectations for both the student and the teacher in a learning setting.  Teachers are to demonstrate and guide their pupils, and students are to learn with ease.

Here is how it happens in my classroom.  During a math class I quickly step in to clarify, add to a student’s math explanation, or demonstrate the next step. Students on the other hand, are quick to ask for help  when faced with uncertainty because they do not necessarily believe that learning involves struggles or challenges. Together we fall into this unspoken contract. This way of interacting in the classroom becomes a barrier to learning.

Jo Boaler describes it well: We empty the interaction of learning and reduce the cognitive demand for the student.

As a teacher responsible for student learning, it is too easy to take ownership of something that belongs to the learners. Instead of this didactic interaction I need to allow mistakes, reflection, redirection, and meaning making, as students develop math skills.  My goal as a teacher is to have an engaging classroom where students  pursue questions and discuss their thinking about mathematical processes.  This dynamic interaction would promote deeper thinking and meaningful problem solving.

It is critical in this setting to ask the kinds of questions that promote meaningful engagement.  What is a good math question? Here is a challenge I love!  I am building on what I know and will share more with you in a future post.