As a mathematics teacher, I often wonder how I can better prepare students to get the maximum benefit from my explanations? How can I set them up so that the concepts are well received? I have found that students are quick to process and understand new concepts if they have already thought about something and analyzed it well enough to formulate a question.
A few weeks ago, I asked the students to look ahead in their textbook and look for something that didn’t make sense and to write a question. Here is the assignment, followed by student-formed questions:
Assignment: Forming Questions Activity
-Look in your textbook (Haese) under section 2D or 2E and find something you do not already know.
-Read a little and look at the examples and vocabulary.
-Take a screen shot, place it in a Word document, and circle the part you don’t know with electronic pen.
-In your word document, ask a specific question (not just “I do not understand”) that would help you to understand. There are many ways to ask questions. Here are a few ideas to get started if needed: “How did they get …?” ; “How is this different than…”, “Why do they use _______ to solve this? Isn’t______ easier?”, What is the meaning of the word _____?”
“In all the questions is the exponent of the number or the variable?”
This is a learning process in three ways: the students practice reading and making sense of new concepts, they practice formulating questions that will lead to understanding, and they prepare themselves by getting familiar with vocabulary and notation. It also facilitates instruction because I know exactly where the misunderstandings will occur and can focus my explanations on those areas.
Most knowledge and wisdom begin with questions. I hope that activities like this will have long lasting positive affects for the students beyond just learning math concepts. The hope is that they will continue to develop skills to be lifelong learners while also learning necessary math skills.