Yesterday I questioned the effectiveness of the workshop model for math & inquiry. While I have yet to come to a conclusion, I did make a decision about how to approach teaching math to my students. Math has always been fun for me to teach. I find it challenging & because of that enjoy finding creative ways to teach it. Today I began our math workshop with reinforcing language: "I noticed on Friday that you were able to subtract with regrouping independently." Followed up by a challenge: "Today I want you to push your thinking about regrouping."
I need to disclose a few things. 1)I am a huge fan of using manipulatives. 2)Our new math program does not use manipulatives ~ unless they are being used as a game piece. In the end here's what happened. My students were incredibly engaged & because of this it was the calmest math workshop we have had in a long time (since using the new program). Not only were they understanding how to subtract across a zero, but were understanding subtraction in & of itself. They loved the challenge & did not get frustrated once. This was definitely a possibility because math is a loathed subject by 80% of my students. They begged for more & were excited when I told them we would do more tomorrow.
Now, am I ecstatic about what we did today? Yes & no. Yes because they constructed their own knowledge. Yes because they felt successful in an area that they typically don't feel successful in. Yes because we have a limited amount of base-10 blocks, they had to work cooperatively, & did so successfully. Yes because they were using 3 math strategies @ once: building models, drawing pictures, & calculating. (I'm not even really sure if those ARE math strategies, but according to every math text book I've seen, they are.) No because it wasn't as higher level or as authentic as I would like math to be. I would prefer that they work through a real-life problem & find a way to solve it. No, because I only provided them with one material to use. In the end, I know that my plans to begin multiplication in a constructivist way next week will be much more successful. Because they've had this experience, they will feel okay struggling through what I have planned.