I was listening to a report on NPR this morning while I was driving in to work. In the report they said that an experiment was run on American students and Japanese students where they were both presented with a difficult math problem to solve. The American children gave up after only a few seconds, while the Japanese children worked on the difficult problem for an hour. Our children need stamina and determination.
How many of you finish teaching your whole group mini-lesson and pass out independent work to your students, and before you can take 1 step there is a line forming beside you of students who claim they can’t do it. In only seconds they have already decided that the work which you know you explained well, and they are ready for, is too hard for them. Last year I would be raising my hand too, but this year no more because of the simplest tip.
Miss Kindergarten is hosting a teaching tip linky party and here is my tip:
5 minutes of silence.
Yup that’s it. During math lessons after I have lead the whole group lesson and students are now starting their independent work assignment I set a timer on the smartboard for 5 minutes. During this time students are allowed to use counters, number lines, fingers, hundreds boards, or any other manipulatives they need to try to solve the problems in their own. They are not allowed to ask for help from anyone until the timer goes off. Usually by the time the timer goes off, most of the students have figured out how to solve the problems without help and then I only have a handful left to help.
My students know they when that timer is set no body, and I mean nobody (including my special education students) gets any help from an adult until the timer goes off. At first it was hard not to jump in and help them right away, but every time I was doing that I was being a crutch for my students. 5 minutes is not that long, so for those students for whom math truly is a challenge time is up and they can get help before they become too frustrated. In fact many of my weakest students are becoming much better mathematicians than I ever would have expected because they are forced everyday to spend a few minutes solving a puzzle, which is all math is anyway.