Sunday, October 27, 2013

Promoting Students' Logical and Critical Thinking

One of the things that I've noticed over the years is a decline in logical thinking.  Last year, I decided I was going to try to build some logical thinking activities into my classroom without students realizing what they were doing (I sneaky!).  At CAMT13, my teaching partner and I came across the perfect "puzzle" to satisfy this need.

The Ultimate Puzzle, as it's called, is quite challenging.  It took my daughter (who I must admit is very bright - she is a junior in the Dulles High School Math and Science Academy) spent hours on it the first time she tried.  Once she got the hang of it, then she set out to see how many different ways she could put the puzzle together. my classroom, I had a couple of students finish a test quickly.  They asked what they could do and I sent them to the hallway with a puzzle.  They spent the rest of the class period attempting to get a 4 x 4 puzzle put together!

Fast forward 2 weeks.  The first students to finish came and asked if they could go in the hall with the puzzles.  At one point I had 3 students in the classroom finishing tests and 24 students trying to get the puzzles put together!  I absolutely love it when students ask you if they can do something that they think is fun, but that I know will help develop their brains!

So far, we've been able to get a 3 x 3 square, but we haven't had any luck with the 4 x 4 square.  My students are determined, though, and I can't wait to see the excitement when they get there!

We also have some Brick by Brick puzzles that come with bricks and different pictures.  Students have to build a figure that matches the picture (similar to Tangram puzzles but three dimensional).

What do you do in your classroom to help build students' logical and critical reasoning skills?  I'm always looking for new ideas :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why don't they remember?

For the most part, everything we've done so far this year in 6th grade math has been a review of 4th and 5th grade concepts (multi-digit multiplication and division, decimals, divisibility rules, prime factorization, etc.).  Despite the fact that I know they've seen it before, they all seem to stare blankly as if I'm speaking Greek.

On Friday, in my GT/Honors class, I asked the students to set up their interactive notebooks.  On the right side they copied the objective and on the left side I asked them to write a sentence or two about what they already knew about the topic.  I heard way too many kids say that they didn't have anything to write because they had no idea what that was!  Can I just say...frustrating!

Why is it that our students don't seem to retain information from year-to-year?  Are there brains really wired that differently?  (I'm not that old, am I?)  There is so much information at our fingertips these days.  We don't need to remember phone numbers because they're in our contact lists.  I hate to use absolutes, but there's almost nothing we can't figure out with a simple Google search.  Students are busier now than they've ever been.  They go from school to sports or other after school activities, to clubs, to church, etc.  Has the harried lifestyle of today's children combined with fast paced video games, media, and other technologies created students who cannot focus for sustained periods of time?

And then I can't help but wonder, with the information available at our fingertips, how much of what we are expecting our students to learn (and remember) is really relevant to their future lives?  Is all of it necessary?  Our students certainly live in a world much different from the one in which we grew up in.  When I was growing up, it was important to learn to use a dictionary and an encyclopedia.  I would argue that those skills really aren't that important today because we can enter information into a search box and the computer will find entries that match my search.

What do you think?  Do your students retain instruction?  Do you feel our current curriculum is relevant to students?