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Innovating Math Education

Fostering Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and
Mistake-Friendly Learning

Teacher gives a math lesson to students

Ms. Jennifer Elwood stood at the front of her Algebra A class at East Union High School, ready for an engaging lesson. Today, she decided to start with an activity to get their minds ready to learn about parallel lines. 

Changing the slide on her PowerPoint, students were presented with four different lines on a graph and asked to go to a corner of the room to vote on which line they believed did not belong among the others. Afterward, students reviewed their homework and split into pairs, taking turns to coach each other on how to solve a few problems. 

Ms. Elwood acknowledged the importance of students working together and talking about math. "The more they discuss, the more they understand. It's more fun, and they understand better when they talk about it." 

Students observe different graphs

Activities like this allow students to exercise thinking strategies. By asking themselves questions, drawing on background knowledge, and making inferences, students can actively participate in their learning. 

This shift in teaching, specifically in mathematics, is moving away from having students simply memorize the steps they need to solve a problem. Instead, using math thinking strategies in classrooms aims to cultivate critical thinking, build problem-solving skills, and ensure students have a solid foundational understanding of math, preparing students for success in academics and the real world.   

With this change, teachers are working to create mistake-friendly environments, where students feel comfortable practicing a concept until they succeed. Ms. Elwood believes correcting mistakes is when true learning happens.  “I use non-permanent surfaces like these vertical whiteboards to make math less threatening,” shares Ms. Elwood. 

 “We're building skills for their future jobs. When they encounter challenges, I want them to think through problems and not shut down when something bad happens." 

When the bell rings, Ms. Elwood hopes that students take their lessons outside of the classroom to discuss things with their family and friends. Math can be a tough subject to discuss with parents at the high school level, but she believes that even a couple of minutes of conversation can help cement something they’re learning. This is something she takes into consideration when lesson planning, “if they have an activity that resonates with them, maybe then they'll share that at home.” 

 

  • East Union
  • Thinking Strategies
  • math