Strategies for enhancing conceptual understanding in the mathematics classroom
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Strategies for Enhancing Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom. Lamont Holifield, M. Ed. CICS-Ellison High School Imathination Conference 2012 Saturday, January 21,2012. Agenda. Rationale for Discussion/Connection to Common Core Tool You Can Use

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Strategies for Enhancing Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom

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Strategies for Enhancing Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom

Lamont Holifield, M. Ed.

CICS-Ellison High School

Imathination Conference 2012

Saturday, January 21,2012


  • Rationale for Discussion/Connection to Common Core

  • Tool You Can Use

    • Integrating Literature into Mathematics

    • Writing in the Mathematics Classroom

    • Debate and Critique

  • Questions/Answers

  • Additional Resources

  • What’s The Message?“Turn and Talk Activity”

    Analysis of the CartoonCurrent Challenge

    • Part of the challenge of teaching reading in Mathematics stems from the confusion over what “reading mathematics” actually means.

    • Is it being able to read expressions with mathematical symbols?

    • Is it being able to comprehend printed numerical data?

    • Is it being able to comprehend worded mathematical passages in, say, a mathematics textbook?

    Why Reading in the Mathematics Classroom?

    • First and foremost, it is paramount to meeting at least three of the Standards for Mathematics Practice listed in the New Common Core Standards:

      • Students must be able to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

      • Students must be able to reason abstractly and quantitatively.

      • Students must be able to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Hence, the necessity of using principles of academic debate and argumentative reasoning skills.

    Why Reading in the Mathematics Classroom?

    • Secondly, it requires unique knowledge and skills not taught in other content areas.

      • Typically students are taught to read from left to right. This holds true in mathematics with several exceptions.

        • In addition, they must know how to read from right to left. For example, when reading an integer number line.

        • They must know how to read from top to bottom. For example, when analyzing a table of data.

        • They must also know how to read diagonally. For example, when reading a graph.

    Why Reading in the Mathematics Classroom?

    • Thirdly, mathematics text contain more concepts per word, per sentence, per paragraph than any other kind of text.

    • In addition, the concepts are abstract making it difficult for readers to visualize their meaning.

    • Fourth, authors typically write in terse and compact style. Each sentence contains a lot of information and there is a little redundancy. Students tackle the text, at time, like a short story and miss significant details, explanations and the underlying logic.

    Challenges That We Face As Mathematics Teachers

    • Complexities of teaching mathematics in ways we did not experience as students

    • Discomfort with our own mathematics knowledge

    • Lack of sustained professional development opportunities like Imathination

    • Greater requirement for facilitation skills and attention to classroom dynamics

    • Lack of time, especially in face of curricular demands

    Recommended Novels/Books for Integration into Mathematics

    • Secrets, Lies and Algebra (Algebra I, II Classroom) by Wendy Lichtman

    • A Gebra Named Al (Algebra I, Chemistry) by Wendy Isdell

    • Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions (Geometry, Pre-Calc) by E. A. Abbott

    • The Numbers behind Numb3rs: Solving Crimes with Mathematics (Statistics/AP Stats) by Keith Devlin

    • A Certain Ambiguity (Pre Calc or Higher Mathematics) by Gaurav Suri

    Strategy #1Integrating Literature into Mathematics

    • Students can make connections to text and engage in learning mathematical terminology without realizing that they are doing so.

    • It allows students to experience mathematics in a non-intimidating manner. Consider the student who has only had negative experiences with mathematics and finally gets to experience it in a context he/she can enjoy.

    Talk and Turn

    • Based upon what you have heard, what can potentially be the value added to students?

    • How can incorporating the reading of novels and other text potentially engage students in the learning?

    • What challenges do you perceive?

      Visit the Website below for other titles in mathematical


    Strategy #2Using Writing in the Mathematics Classroom

    Quote from: Maggie Johnston, 9th Grade Math Teacher, Denver, CO

    “Writing in mathematics gives me a window into my students’ thoughts that I don’t normally get when they just compute problems. It shows me their roadblocks, and also gives me as a teacher, a road map.”

    Talk and Turn

    • What does the statement mean to you, personally?

    • In the statement, I have underlined a couple of words. Answer the following questions:

      • What is the purpose of a window?

      • Why is students’ thinking important?

      • What is a roadblock? What is the danger of not seeing a roadblock? What could potentially happen if a roadblock is simply ignored?

      • What is the value of a road map?

    Ideas for How to Incorporate Writing Into Mathematics

    • “The Journalists’ Questions”

    • Biography and Autobiography (Mathography)

    • Learning Logs, Blogs and Journals

    • Summaries (Venn Diagrams, Concept Maps)

    • Magnet Summaries

    • Explicitly Teaching Relevant Vocabulary

    • Creative Writing in Trigonometry (can be integrated into other mathematical subjects)

    Strategy 3: Integrating Debate, Discourse and Argumentative Literacy

    A Potential Transformative Model of the Math Classroom

    Math Classroom functions as a community where thinking, talking, agreeing and disagreeing are encouraged. The teacher provides students with powerful math problems to solve together and students are expected to justify and explain their solutions. The primary goal is to extend one’s own thinking as well as that of others.

    Talk and Turn

    • What is your initial reaction to this model?

    • Currently, how does this model fit as a description of your classroom?

    • What are some challenges to adopting this type of model?

    Ideas For Integratinginto the Mathematics Classroom

    • Discourse Time! (What is It?/How does it work?)

    • Debate in the Mathematics Class (Solving a System of Linear Equation Methodology Debate)

    • Error Analysis Work (Looking at Work/Listening at Peers)

    • Moving from Teacher Driven to Student-Led Discussion

    Questions/Answer Session

    For more information on any and all strategies introduced, contact me at:

    Lamont Holifield

    CICS-Ralph Ellison High School

    1817 W. 80th Street

    Chicago, IL 60620

    [email protected]

    (773) 307-0734

    Thanks For Participating In This Discussion Today!

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