More Than Routine

Routine in the classroom is good, right?! Students need structure! Yes, but structure and routine are two very different things when it comes to math instruction. I read a pretty interesting chapter recently in Adding it Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics about the "routine" of instruction seen in a lot of math classrooms. This "routine" is called recitation and it describes many of the math classrooms we as teachers learned in as children. See if this sounds familiar...

The class begins by reviewing last night's homework assignment. The teacher explains it (or maybe a student does). The teacher then moves on to the content of the lesson by demonstrating a skill, asking a question, waiting for a student response (which typically requires little more than a few words), evaluating the accuracy of the response, and then continuing this cycle over and over again until all the content for the day has been covered or until it is time for students to get a head start on their homework.

In this classroom, who is doing the majority of the work? Is it the students or the teacher? Who is being held accountable for their thinking? It is SO easy to fall into teaching the way we were once taught as students in the classroom in the name of "routine" and "structure." I am not saying that our math classrooms should not be structured. Students thrive in a classroom that is structured. What I am saying is that we have to give our students more. More exploration. More thinking. More talking. More time. More opportunities to experience math and develop their own curiosity about the wonder of math. More patterns. More debates. More excitement. Just more. We need more than a routine to deliver a set of standards. When students leave my classroom I want them to continue talking about what they learned. I want them to feel proud of what they discovered and be ready to tackle something that left them feeling "stuck" the day before. Math, REAL MATH, is addicting! We cannot silence our students' thinking by doing the whole question-answer-question-answer dance.

So what should our math classrooms look like? How do we give our students all this MORE? I think the answer to that is twofold. We engage our students with the delivery of the content and we engage our students with the content itself. Engaging students through the delivery draws them in and hooks them. Following that up with content that engages their mind, sparks their curiosity, and causes them to want more leaves them feeling empowered as math learners. My opinion is that both are needed to give our students an amazing classroom experience that involves learning, community, and a genuine love of math.

*This post contains an affiliate link to a great math resource to assist with the maintenance of this blog!

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