Inspired, Hopeful and Challenged

Sometimes the contrast between ideas makes you laugh, surprises or disturbs you, or makes you wonder how two ideas can exist in the same sphere. Two of the sessions I attended at the Greater Edmonton Teacher’s Convention (GETCA), did just that. One seemed like a throwback to the past and the other an open door to the future. Let me tell you about the second one.

The session that left me inspired, hopeful and challenged, was presented by Peter Liljedahl a professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University.

This session modeled the very practices that help to create thinking mathematics classrooms. I relay my experience in point form to help me identify some of the processes that made it work so well.

  •  Teachers from various grades levels participated.
  • The question was presented orally and a brief example was drawn on the wipe- off board.
  • The math question we were asked to solve was open-ended, perplexing, and at the same time accessible and challenging to the whole group.
  • At first, it felt risky and I was somewhat anxious.
  • We worked in small collaborative groups around whiteboards mounted on the wall. This enabled us to draw our ideas and easily share our thinking as we discussed the problem. It was easy to erase and change our work as we thought things through.
  • The camaraderie in the group was infectious as we tried different solutions and developed our understanding.
  • There was a lot of conversation from each participant.
  • The presenter challenged, redirected or gave ‘just in time’ support to keep us thinking.
  • The pace of our session felt right. There was time to work together and time look at the work of others.
  • When time was up, we looked at the work each group had done. Solutions were compared, discussed and revised, deepening understanding.
  • 55 minutes passed in the blink of an eye.
  • My brain hurt!

We reflected on the process.  What made this rich?   What were we doing as participants? How do we engage our students in the math classroom so that they are doing the talking, the thinking, and the math?

Want to learn more?  I know that I do. Check out Peter Liljedahl’s website.  There is so much to learn about making the process come alive in our classrooms.

 

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