What if…

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I’m a little (a lot) late to this Blog Hop #3 of the Innovator’s Mindset Online Book Study but better late (a lot) than never.

Lately, my mind has been occupied with how we structure learning when our primary focus is not on curriculum.  These “what ifs” are the ones that challenge my thinking right now.

  1. What if everyone in our organization, not just our students, was encouraged to pursue his or her own dreams?
  2. What if people were always our first focus, as opposed to “stuff”?
  3. What if we recognized and built on learners’ strengths?

I taught the heavily skill based subject of mathematics for 18 years.  I administered the Grade Nine EQAO test almost every semester since its inception.  My students learned the way I learned for all those years.  Most days, the focus was on a particular skill.  The next day we built on that skill and about 10 days into the unit, we’d have a test with the numbers changed on questions they’d already done.

Don’t get me wrong, there were real life problems to solve but they were “fake” real problems.  The shift in learning and teaching that we’ve been talking about is solving “real” real problems.  And, to be more precise, we’re talking about meaningful, purposeful, real, real problems.

Part of my struggle is, what does that look like in a classroom like mathematics where there are so many skills to learn?  What are the “must haves” for any of these classrooms?  Can I effectively find a number of classes that are doing this?  Will the variability of the degree to which they’re doing this complicate the whole exercise?

The other part I struggle with is, does mathematics have to be so skill based?”  There are many tools out there that will perform the skills for us.  Does it make more sense to focus on solving real, real problems than to drill home the skills?  Does every student need to be able to find the zeros in a quadratic equation by hand with no errors or is it more important to be able to use the result to determine whether the ballistic will hit the target?

I think my “what ifs” above are not far away.  The discussions are going on in my board.  Effective, collaborative communication is key.  An open mind and a willingness to unlearn and then relearn is necessary.  And above all, we need to take risks and model that same positive attitude to learning that we want to see in our students.

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