## Thursday, February 17, 2011

### What does it mean to do mathematics?

My MTH 329 class just finished the first unit of Teaching and Learning Middle Grades Mathematics. The focus of this unit is on the NCTM Process Standards. Yesterday we spent a considerable amount of our class period reflecting on what we’ve been doing so far.

We start the workshop with a schema activation/connection that asks the learners to review a simile survey taken the first day of class. One part of the survey says, “Choose the simile that best describes doing math and explain your choice.” The similes to choose from are: climbing a mountain, conducting an experiment, cooking a meal, reading a book, working a puzzle, or playing a game. In reviewing their original choices, I want my learners to consider how their view of doing math has changed and why.

The focus/concentration for the workshop is to create an anchor chart representing what they think it means to do mathematics. This chart might hang in their future classroom as a constant reminder to their learners what it means to be a mathematician. (My colleague shares his experience with anchor charts here.)

During the activity/construction phase of the workshop, groups of four work together to develop a rough draft anchor chart. The first group builds on the simile idea and develops a chart showing doing math as working a puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle represents a different aspect of their vision of doing math.

Group two decides that they want to make a chart that would appeal to middle grade learners. They use graffiti as the theme and begin searching Urban Dictionary for terms they could use for the Process Standards. At one point they discuss whether or not the chart is appropriate (culturally sensitive) and decide that it is because it is intended to engage and not to mock.

The final group considers the anchor chart from a graph theory perspective. They had just been discussing a discrete mathematics assignment and it seems to find its way into the representation. That’s the Green Arrow up in the Algebra block. The color of each arrow has some significance, I think. (These are works in progress.)

These are rough drafts that I post on our classroom Blackboard site. The future teachers will make adjustments to whichever one they choose and make it their own for inclusion in the course portfolio. This is the reflection/consolidation portion of the workshop.

So what do I think it means to do mathematics? It involves collaborating with others in an effort to solve problems, making and revising representations for/of our thinking, trying to connect various ideas, and communicating the reasoning behind our thought process to others. In other words, yesterday doing mathematics involved making anchor charts.