Implementing Mathematical Practices in your Classroom

When the new core was implemented in my state I was heading into my third year teaching.  I attended an intense 80 hour course on the new material as well as the new strategies to teach math.  I fell in love with the new strategies that I learned and I was excited to implement them in my classroom.  However, I was caught off guard when I was told that the 8 Mathematical Practices would be tested. I had never actually explicitly taught mathematical practices, but I knew now was the time to start.  Through my years of teaching, I have done a few things in my classroom that have greatly impacted their learning of these practices.  Technically, these practices are supposed to be taught since early elementary grades, but even as a middle school math teacher, I always took the time to explicitly teach them.

Here are three ideas that have worked in my classroom.

Assign a Reading Assignment
That's right, I printed out the mathematical practices and their explanations and I assigned my students to read them.  I had them mark up the text, as though they might do in their Language Arts class.  I had them highlight the text, annotate the text, and write questions about the text.  I had them collaborate in small groups about the text and then we had a large group discussion.  Taking the time to do this, truly made the world of difference.

Practice the Mathematical Practices
An excellent time to explicitly teach these skills is the first week or two of school.  I used logic problems to practice these skills.  For example, I would give a logic problem to the students, I often did this in small groups, and have them work on it together.  Then I would have the small groups present their "viable argument"to the class.  The students would then focus on "critiquing their reasoning."  The purpose of the class was not the answer to the logic problem, rather teaching the mathematical practice of, "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others."  This is just one example, but can easily be applied to other mathematical practices.  

Post and Refer
I made posters for the mathematical practices and hung them at the front of my room.  I kept them there then entire year.  I included them in my teaching on a daily basis.  I would tell the students what skill we were practicing along with the new material.  I would also have my students tell me what skill they were practicing, and have them write about what mathematical practice skill they were practicing on the assignment.  The key for this to be successful is to refer to them and talk about them on a daily basis.  Let them become part of your vocabulary and the students' vocabulary.
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