Math = Love: Asking Why

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Asking Why

Can you guess what our lesson was a few weeks ago in children's church?

Wise Man / Foolish Man Object Lesson

Yep.  We studied the story of the wise man and the foolish man.  The wise man built his house upon the rock.  The foolish man built his house upon the sand.  When the wind blew and the storms of life came up, the wise man's house stood firm on it's foundation, but the foolish man's house was demolished.

Storms of Life

My mom found a template online to print off tiny lessons for an object lesson.  Each house was taped together and weighted down with a small rock inside.  It was my job to tell the story and pour on the storms of life.

It was rather nerve-wracking because we did not practice this beforehand.  I spent a lot of time asking the children what they thought was going to happen and why.  What will happen when I pour the water on?  Why will the house on the sand fall over?  Why?  Why will the house on the rock stay standing?  Why?  Why is the foundation important?  What is the foundation made of?  What is the foundation adhered to?  Why would it be important to build your house right the first time?  Which house would you want to spend a warm sunny day at?  Why?  Which house would you want to spend a stormy, tempestuous day at?  Why?

Anticipation was building.  The kids were expecting the house on the sand to fall and the house on the rock to stand.  But, wouldn't the stream of water from my milk jug knock over both houses?  One girl thought that they were both going to fall over.  Others were convinced only the house built on the sand would fall.

Nervously, I started with the house on the sand.  A few moments after the water hit, the sand was soggy and the house was laying in the water.  So far, so good.  Now, the house on the rock.  I tried my hardest to pour the water directly on the roof of the house.  Amazingly, the house stood firm.  I continued pouring the water, clearly shocked that the illustration had worked.  My hands must not be the steadiest because eventually the house started sliding across the rock.  But, it remained standing, and I quickly stopped pouring the water to avoid messing up my illustration.

So, what's my takeaway from this?  I need to ask my students "Why?" more often in math class.  Why do you think that?  Why will that happen?  First, I need to start asking my students to make more predictions.  What do you think will happen if we do this?  Why?  My students will be more engaged and learn more if they see cause and effect in action.  Desmos will be perfect for this.  What will happen if I change the sign of this number in the equation?  Why?  Demonstrate.  Did it do what you expected?  If yes, yay!  Let's explore what happens if we change something else.  If not, why not?  What would we have to do to the equation to bring about the change that you originally predicted?

I need to ask more questions.  I need to have my students do more of the thinking.  I need to have my students do all of the thinking.  I get so caught up in trying to "cover" everything that they never grasp a full understanding of the basics.  I do the thinking for them ahead of time and give them the cliffnotes version.  But, they don't get to experience the math for themselves.  They don't get to get their hands messy with math.

Next year, my students will explore more.  Next year, my students will experience more.  I just ordered Max Ray's book on noticing and wondering, and I can't wait for it to get here.  This isn't the way I was taught, and it's going to take some getting used to.  But, I'm excited about the changes that are to come in my classroom.    

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