New Thing #323: Asking Students Why

It's been a while since I taught math regularly. I taught it in my student teaching year and I taught it in my first year in a self-contained classroom.

Then I got my current job teaching language arts and social studies and haven't done much in terms of math.

But I still think a lot about how I taught math, and one of the things I liked to stress with students was where they might apply what they were learning about math in school to their lives.

(An easier task with 5th and 6th grade-level math than the higher grades.)

And it's that thinking that inspired me to try this New Thing this year.


This is something I had done in September but hadn't written about yet - and there are really a bunch of New Things that I've been trying out and working on at work this year. I won't tell you about all of them.

Thinking about math, and why we learn about math, I realized that it's not something I do with the subjects I teach as much. I certainly think about the importance of writing and studying history, and I do touch on it occasionally with the students I teach, but it's not like we come back to it every day.

So I decided this year to spend a class period each asking the students what they think are the reasons we learn to write, and the reasons why we study history.

Their answers were what I hoped for…but they also didn't hit on everything. So I'm leaving these posters we created on the wall all year, in the hopes that as the year moves along we'll think of other reasons that we can add to the list.

I got the idea over the summer, and I'm glad I followed through on it. It may seem like an obvious question to address with kids, but sometimes in the hectic day-to-day of the school year you lose sight of things like this.

I'm going to keep these up on the wall so that we never lose sight of what we're doing.