Teaching Choices

Last week we had a few sixth graders visit our elementary algebra classroom.  While my students were taking their daily quiz, I put this on the board for the youngsters.  I went to the back of the room and explained the question. I  put 2D Boxcar on the screen for those that didn’t want to think about the problem.  Fairly soon I got the answer (Done without paper and pencil b-t-w).  So I changed the problem to 

This was a choice.  When I talk to individual youngsters about math, I try to build an argument.  For example, to show that multiplying by eight is easy, I might ask this series of questions.

In the example above, I wasn’t going for the basic structure.  If so, I would have asked them to solve

next.  Instead I asked for the solution to


thinking that they would have to perturb the previous answer (and use fractions) or maybe try adding the right sides and dividing by two.  My next problem would have been

Most of this was done unconsciously since I was handing out papers and tending to other aspects of class management.


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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