The Importance of Asking Questions ~ Building Mathematical Comprehension


I am arriving to the party a bit late here with Chapter 4. Whoops! Not sure how that happened...but I'm back on it today!

Is it just me? Or is it sometimes like pulling a dragon's teeth to get kids to genuinely voice questions when it comes to math? I'm assuming it's not just me....

The thing is, questioning is so important to mathematical comprehension. It's how we monitor our understanding, it's how we think through problems. Heck...it's probably at the absolute root of true problem solving! (And when I say problem solving, I mean the kind of true problem where you really have to work to come up with a solution....NOT the kind of problem in which an algorithm is applied and you're done).

How is it that questioning somehow has gotten a bad rap? Because it does, really. How many times have you sat in a meeting or training and had a question, but didn't ask? Sammons notes that by 4th or 5th grade, kiddos start to believe that asking questions signifies failing. Wow. That really says something, doesn't it?
It's clear that as teachers, we need to foster an environment where kiddos are comfortable asking authentic questions, one where the students are asking more questions than the teacher! "When the teacher is solely responsible for asking questions, student become disenfranchised." (p. 116). Yikes! Kiddos need to feel secure and know that their questions are valued.

There are some pretty big instructional benefits to questioning in the mathematics realm:
  • kiddos are more engaged, and that leads to more rigorous learning
  • as kiddos generate questions, they're monitoring their understanding
  • the generation of questions leads to a deeper understanding and greater retention
The good news is the abiltiy to generate questions can be developed!
  • teachers can model the strategy through think alouds
  • create and anchor chart on which kiddos list the reasons for asking questions in math
  • helps kiddos realize that asking questions helps them understand
Here are some ideas Laney gives that we can use in the classroom to help kiddos become effective at questioning:
  • Strategy Lesson: instead of whole group math, why not teach this strategy in small groups? It gives kiddos a better view of how the strategy is used, and a better opportunity of practicing it, too.
  • Wonder Wall - I really like this suggestion...Why not set up an area for a chart where students record the questions they have before, during, & after working with a concept? Then gather together to go over the questions that have been posted...imagine the powerful conversations. It is important that you have kiddos interact with the chart....it's not going to do much good if it's just a place to post your question!
  • Graphic Organizer for Problem Solving - I love, love, love the frayer model type organizer Laney demonstrates! With plenty of modeling at first, of course, I can see this becoming a powerful tool for problem solving. Later, after plenty of independent practice, it should become internalized. That makes this a phenomenal foundational tool! I adapted this frayer model, & it's editable, too! Just type the problem you are giving your kiddos there in the center, copy, and you're good to go!
You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking the pic below...
Don't let your kiddos slip into the role of passive learners...they need to have the ability  to develop authentic questions. "Students who are expected to think, reflect, and ask questions about their mathematical work take increased responsibility for their learning".

What are some ways that you help kiddos develop the capacity for genuine questioning?

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