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Kid Snippets: Math Class

February 10, 2013

We watched this video in both of my LA meetings this week. The video is pretty funny when you’re watching it casually but it becomes almost painful when you’re watching it thinking about teaching.

In both meetings I showed the video and then asked the LAs what things the instructor did that they either liked or disliked. The LAs quickly started listing things like ‘the teacher becomes visibly frustrated’, ‘the teacher doesn’t adjust his approach, he keeps doing the finger thing even though it isn’t working for the student’, and ‘the teacher believes the student (or doesn’t care) when the student says he understands’. We chatted about these ideas some and what the LAs thought the teacher could have done differently.

Once the discussion reached a lull, I asked some questions to try to bring up aspects we hadn’t touched on:

What specifically is the student’s difficulty? We talked about counting, versus the operation of subtraction, versus translating “take away” into a mathematical operation.

What does the teacher learn about the student’s difficulty during this interaction? We decided that even though both student and teacher are talking this is really a one-way conversation. Nothing the teacher does is designed to help him understand the student’s thinking or the student’s difficulty.

What is the teacher’s goal in this interaction? What moves does the teacher make that are aimed at helping the student understand? What moves does the teacher make that are aimed at getting the student to say a specific word?

LAs brought up the idea of using physical objects rather than fingers to illustrate taking something away. We played with this idea some and talked about the difficulties that can arise when the fingers are both the objects and the things that point at the objects.

This is the first time we’ve done any sort of ‘video analysis’ in the LA meeting and I think this video works well for a first attempt. This video is a little bit exaggerated and not a real teacher which makes it easier to point out problems but it’s also close enough to real classes that we can see things we do that are similar to the video.

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