And Then They Were Challenged

Today something amazing happened; I didn’t have to teach.  Or at least I didn’t have to follow the lesson plan to stay on track because all of this week we have been doing our state tests.  But today we were done and we had 90 minutes of time just for math so where some may have done review or front-loading, and yet others may have played math games, my team and I decided to challenge our kids instead.  So rather than their normal math problems where every single step it hammered out for them they were given problems to solve.  Problems that didn’t tell them what to do.  Problems that weren’t broken down into easily digestible bits.  Problems where they had to try and fail and try again.  Problems like we solve outside of school.

At first the kids moaned, hesitated, and then they got involved.  Then they got excited, and then they worked on it for 90 minutes straight until they had solved every single one of them.  This was not by force from me, they were told to do as many as they wanted, but they wanted to solve them.  They wanted to share their solutions, they wanted to mess with them, to play around, to try something.  They beamed.  They couldn’t wait to show me, they couldn’t want to explain how they had tried something and then something else.  They asked if they could take them home.  Math!  Home!  Wow…

So I ask myself, why can’t math be like this every day?  I like our math program but that is exactly what it is, a program, something prescribed and broken down.  Where is the time for our real exploration?  For our trying and failing?  I have to find the time.

About Pernille Ripp

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.
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2 Responses to And Then They Were Challenged

  1. Mr. Sam says:

    It can be like that every day, all learning can be like that every day! It’s just very difficult and involves break moulds and traditions. I find the time by ignoring the program – whoops, did I just say that?


  2. filearning says:

    Wow! Maths where you can mess around with the numbers and concepts! A mathematical playground. I remember playgrounds, the place where falling down is the only way you learn about gravity!
    I think it is essential that the teacher knows how to play and wants to get their hands ‘dirty’ in a mathematical playground. Maths programs are there to support those of us (yes I am guilty) who need a zimmer frame to get around all those perplexing and sometimes frightening obsticles such as algerbraic equations, negative numbers, fractions and decimals!! Quite often that zimmer frame looks awfully like a worksheet!
    I think I’d like to learn in your playground 🙂


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