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PoW Mentoring Tips

This summer and fall, four future teachers worked at the Math Forum, helping us do cool things like produce video of Math Forum staff facilitating problem-solving sessions or create new video scenarios. We asked one of the co-op students, Gina, to read and synthesize the “2-3: Mathematical Practice #1″ post from the Math Forum’s Elementary Math Practices blog to help our newsletter readers get a sense of some of the cool resources on our Math Forum blogs.

There are many steps a teacher has to take when going over certain problems with their students. First of all, the teacher needs to make sure their student understands the problem. How can you help your student understand the given problem when mentoring them? One teacher named Barbara states that in order to guarantee your student will be able to solve/understand the problem is to have previously taught them various ways of solving problems. Making sure they are aware of different methods that they can try out, so in case they get stuck on one, they can try a different approach. Knowing different strategies allows students to talk to one another and compare what each other did, Barbara says. Students comparing each others’ methods will then most likely result in viable arguments and criticism between students. These are not bad things! These arguments can open students’ eyes to new and exciting methods.

Another strategy you can use while mentoring your students is to help them to read abstractly. Make sure they make sense of these quantities and the relationships they hold within the problem. Have the students relate them to everyday experiences and manipulate the representing symbols to understand them better. Using diagrams, graphs, flow charts, and manipulatives with students is also very helpful. Visualizing the problem with your student helps them get a better understanding of it.

Finally once the problem is done, have your student reflect what they did. Ask them their thoughts on the problem and how if they could, what they would do differently.

More on helpful strategies can be found on the Elementary Math Practices blog.