The best part about the classes I have taken at BYU for education has been when I have seen my students using the strategies that I was taught in my classes. For example, when I took MTHED 305 and 306 there were days I thought, “Oh please, students aren’t going to ask why something works and they aren’t going to need to think about how they solve math problems.” Obviously, I wasn’t aware of what lay ahead in the classroom.
Now, after starting the internship, and being a teacher who actually works with children and teaches math as part of the curriculum, I realize that students really do wonder why something works and most of them use various strategies to solve a problem. Several days ago while teaching addition I was surprised as I walked around my classroom and looked over my students shoulders and saw that many students weren’t using the algorithm (column addition) way to solve a question such as 34 + 45. Some strategies I did see them use were the strategies my MTHED professors had emphasized in their class, and that as teachers, they said we should embrace. These strategies include: breaking apart numbers into smaller numbers or into their place’s value (ex: 34 + 45 = 30 + 40 + 4 + 5), compensating one number to make it easier to add or subtract, and counting on from 10’s.
I was also pleasantly surprised that students actually talked about their thinking. Not only were my professors right that students are going to use different strategies, but that these students, these children, are also expected to talk about their thinking. As their teacher, I must embrace this new pedagogy. Gone are the days of the past when students are expected to show their understanding through a worksheet, without questioning why an algorithm works; now they can learn various strategies and question which strategy will work best for them as they solve these mathematical problems.
Looking back, I realized that what I was being taught in class for four hours every week actually occurs in classrooms everyday. Has there been a class you have taken in your college career that you felt related to the real world context?