Friday, June 26, 2015

#70 Days Habit 6 Question for Understanding

Habit 6 in Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking matches our school's initiative well.  One focus last year was critical thinking.  To analyze our effectiveness in addressing critical thinking we focused on questioning.

Pearse and Walton stress the importance of preplanned high level thinking questions.  Most of us have heard of research that says in most classes teachers ask mostly low level questions.  It takes specific planning to be sure to use worthwhile questions.  Rarely will they just happen.

Resources that I have used to help with questioning strategies include these books.

I wrote about these books in a previous blog post.  In that blog I also note a helpful resource by Ontario Ministry of Education, an excellent article entitled, "Asking Effective Questions," which has question stems for planning high level questions for various instructional purposes.  These are similar to what Pearse and Walton have included in their book.

As Pearse and Walton point out, keep such a list of questions or question stems handy when planning is helpful in designing optimal questions.  In addition to keeping lists handy, using a template for planning discussion around a problem or question is useful.  The book Intentional Talk has such templates.  Those templates are free right now on the Stenhouse Publishers website.  You can also preview the entire book for free there as well.  Currently there is a slow math chat about this book on Twitter!  Check out the hashtag #intenttalk or this blog post on the summer long chat!

One area I want to work on is making sure all students are participating in the thinking when I ask questions.  I've been reviewing the book, Total Participation Techniques.  Some of those participation techniques include think, pair, share; quick writes; whiteboard responses; hold-up cards, four corners, and more. Since we will have iPads this year, I am looking for free apps that we can use easily as participation techniques that will add to our learning.  One strategy I saw this week, is having students respond to a prompt, capturing a screen shot, and adding to it Padlet.  I can envision students working out or illustrating their work in educreations or desmos, capturing it and sharing.  Then we can easily talk more about individual students' strategies.  Hopefully by sharing more student responses we can generate more student questions!

If you haven't read Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking, check it out.  Yes, it has an elementary focus but the habits apply to all of schooling!


  1. I so much appreciate your vision. Good questioning is beneficial across grade levels and curriculum. Gosh, every new invention more-than-likely began with a question.

    I believe questioning strategies both (teacher-generated questions, but especially student-generated questions) are at the heart of shifting the focus of math instruction from teaching to learning. When we “plan from the other side of the desk,” we level the playing and make learning math possible for all students.

    Here are the BDA math questions from the chapter.

    With my college students, I have these on a ring and at various moments during the lesson (sometimes before, often during, and almost always as debrief), we choose a question to answer in journals.

    Here is a poster sample of the sentence stems that are super helpful for math journaling.

    1. Margie, thank you! The resources are amazingly helpful! Thank you for interacting with my blog!