Mathematicians Ask for Help
One of the blogs that I try to read regularly is Michael Pershan’s “Teaching With Problems.”
Michael, who is the quintessential reflective teacher in my mind, wrote a lovely blog post this week titled “Mathematicians Ask for Help.”
In that blog post, Michael starts with a reflection about his own experience as a mathematics student. I love “hearing” teachers talk about their lives as students—and Michael explained that when he was in high school and also when he started college, he was not the type of student to ask questions in math class (nor was he encouraged to be).
Later, he realized how important it is for students who are struggling to ask questions. And he took this realization and incorporated it in his teaching practice. He describes a 9th grader he taught some years ago, and how he handled getting this student to do just that.
Here’s what I did for my 9th Grader: I told the entire class, “I want you all to ask me questions. Lots of questions. When you’re feeling stuck: ask me for help.”
And, then, when my 9th Grader didn’t ask me questions I walked over to him: “I really want you to ask me some questions if you’re stuck.”
When that didn’t work (“I’m doing fine Mr. P”) I went back to him and I said: “You’re going to start having an easier time with these problems when you start asking me some questions.”
And, finally, when he asked me a question, I answered it as best I could and said, “This was great — please keep asking questions.”
He finishes that section with the following:
“…I beg kids to ask me questions. It’s how you grow.”
I love Michael’s persistence, and his expression to students about how much he cares about their learning.
It’s really a wonderful blog post, and I encourage you to go over to his blog, have a read, read the thoughtful comments below the post, and add your own thoughts.
–Written by Steven Gnagni (@Steve_Gnagni)