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Systems of Success

January 27, 2018

When my eighth grade class began their investigation of solving systems of equations using the substitution method, I used the appropriate math hook for this  standard (8.EE.C.8.B). Not surprisingly, kids were stumped. I heard questions like "What happened to the y?", ""How did he get 4x?", "What are we supposed to do?". But then, kids began to try stuff.  A few groups solved Peter's equation for x and then used their solution to find a value for y in the original equations. Others turned to what they knew and attempted to graph. Most approaches were much further off target and no one successfully deduced Peter's substitution approach. In all, kids struggled for about five minutes before I revealed the logic behind the method. Nonetheless, the response was positive. Kids wanted to know what it was that they were missing. Like most of us, they couldn't stand not knowing the answer. So when the answers came, for many it clicked right away. For others, more time was needed, as should be. But as a class activity, it was a success.

 

If you're interested in productive struggle but you're not getting the results you want, think about the values in your classroom. Does your classroom culture emphasize collaboration, student engagement and a belief in productive struggle? Are you as a teacher willing to give up your podium to challenge your students? Do kids have the opportunity to voice their mathematical ideas to their peers in collaborations and to make math discoveries on their own? It's not easy to turn a math class into a 21st century classroom but it's certainly a worthwhile journey. Some curriculums make this journey easier than others (CMP and CPM are my favorites). MathHooks' ambition is simply to be one extra tool in a teacher's tool box to build a better product.

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