I was recently in a middle-school class to help launch Math by Myself.
Students came into the class and got right to work on their entry task. Instead of completing the assignment independently, they began raising their hands shortly after the bell rang. Their teacher and I moved around the room to answer questions. Some were procedural—“Do we have to do all of these?” Others were about the content—“I don’t know how to do this.” I overheard their teacher remind them to use their resources, to look back in the book, to look back in their notes and to persevere. As I watched each student receive this message some gave her the sad eyes that said, I want you to explain it to me so I don’t have to use my resources. I want you to be my resource.
In that split second I realized that when student determination waned, their hands went up, their thinking and learning stopped, and so did their perseverance. It made me wonder if we are interfering with perseverance by teaching students that we will always help if their hands are raised.
We applied the information we just gleaned as we launched Math by Myself. Here's how.
10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence for Math by Myself
1) Identify what is to be taught—Math by Myself
2) Create a sense of urgency—To become better at math. It is fun.
- We elaborated on the concept of fun by sharing that some learning isn't fun at first—it is a struggle—but when the pieces fit together, it is thrilling, especially in math.
3) Record desired behaviors:
- Get started right away.
- Work the whole time.
- Work quietly.
- Stay in one spot.
- Build stamina.
- Ignore distractions.
- Practice perseverance—stick with a task, even when it is hard.
- Use your resources—books, tools, notes, classmates, and computer.
Then we taught this: when you come to a problem you don’t understand, instead of raising your hand,
- look back in the book.
- look at your notes.
- ask a classmate.
- circle it and move on.
The rest of the 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence were the same. I can't wait to go back to class and see their improving perseverance.