WOW! Is there anything more rewarding than teaching first grade?!? To top it off—Singapore Math in first grade…priceless! It is mind-blowing to witness the level of mastery and critical thinking skills a six-year-old obtains through the curriculum!
A crucial component in teaching Singapore Math is the “math discussion.” Whether you are using Singapore Math or not, it would benefit your students a great deal to incorporate “math discussion” in your daily lessons. A large responsibility of a first-grade teacher is to guide the students to THINK and express their thought process. As we know by explaining their thought process, students learn how to evaluate their problem solving skills and identify errors in their work. Also, the students learn from listening to their peers answer thought provoking questions “in their language.”
In theory, it sounds great but having the students express their thinking orally was one of the biggest changes in my math lessons. When planning a lesson, a teacher should prepare questions ahead of time. Research shows that when instructors formulate questions “as they go,” the questions are not as thought-provoking as when teachers plan questions ahead of time. We all have our go to’s likely to include:
• How do you know that?
• Why do you think that answer is correct?
• What strategy did you use to get your answer?
• Did anyone solve this problem differently? How?
• Would this (name a different strategy) strategy work to solve this problem? Why/Why not?
• What similar problem did you solve before, and how can what you did then help with solving this problem?
• What would happen if we change this part of the problem to …?
• Can you draw a picture to show how you solved this problem?
Also, occasionally give a wrong answer and ask students why that answer is incorrect.
But we need to give time and thought about those questions that apply to an individual lesson.
At the beginning of first grade, when asking students how they knew an answer to a question, they would usually state, “I don’t know” or “I got that from my head.” It was like pulling teeth to get them to explain their thought process. I found that modeling the thought process worked best by using Think Alouds, especially when introducing a new concept. I recommend using a trigger word such as JUSTIFY that when a student hears, they automatically go in their reasoning. Eventually, the students catch on, so much so, that they want to explain every time they give an answer. They also carry into other subject areas, explaining how they knew the answers to questions. Once you begin implementing “math discussion” in your math instruction, you will be amazed at the reasoning that your students will demonstrate.