Friday, May 6, 2011

Well, Since You Asked

I had a copy of John Van de Walle's book on my desk the other day when a student asks, "Mr. Cox, what are you reading?"

"Oh, this book on how to teach math.  It's pretty interesting."

"Oh, yeah?  What's so interesting about it?"

"Well, I like this chapter on Teaching Through Problem Solving.  It mentions three different ways problem solving can be taught:  Teaching for problem solving, Teaching about problem solving and Teaching through problem solving."

"What's the difference?"

"Well, teaching for problem solving is when students will learn a certain set of skills and then later be asked  to solve a problem using those skills.  Teaching about problem solving is when students learn about particular strategies for solving problems.  And teaching through problem solving is when students are given the problem first and then they figure out how they want to solve it.  It's kind of the opposite of teaching for problem solving."

"Hmm. So teaching for problem solving means the teacher shows us how to do stuff first?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"They don't think we can think for ourselves?  That's kind of offensive."


David said...

Hah, good response by the student. Nice story, and certainly I like the strategy, "Teach through problem solving."

Max said...

Thanks. This made me think... Even when what I am teaching about is problem solving itself, I still have a choice about whether to teach problem-solving through problem-solving.

It also reminds me of the distinction between listening to students and listening for students that I got to riff on at Key Press's Ignite at NCTM: (the one called Why 2 > 4).

iTeach said...

Smart kids you got there....

Jessica said...

I like that book. We used it in my Elementary math methods course in college and I have picked it off the shelf quite a few times since then. Nice impromptu discussion and bit of an English lesson (compare and contrast the meaning of for, to and through *smile*)