Three Part Lessons ~ What is a Math Congress?

Here it is, the last installment on my three part lesson plan series.  After discussing the concept of Bansho and Gallery Walk, we move onto another instructional strategy that supports the development of mathematical thought.  This last part is called Math Congress.

While every child’s solutions are valuable, we as teachers are always in need to be effective communicators and efficient in the ever-stringent timetables we face on a daily basis.  This strategy allows for us to have whole class discussions on two or three, carefully chosen student solutions where connections can be made to every student’s mathematical learning.

Utilizing this strategy to consolidate a three part lesson for problem solving will allow a teacher to direct thoughts to big ideas, which can be extrapolated from the thinking of other students and their solutions.

This strategy is built upon the belief that learning and developing connections within a concept can arise from a group of learners who discover, discuss and reflect upon their solutions.  To do this, students need to be encouraged to test, try, and discover efficient strategies and come to a consensus on mathematical problem solving.  The Math Congress provides an environment to communicate their thoughts, hurdles, solutions, problems, justifications and assumptions.

To prepare for this type of instructional strategy student groups or pairs post their solution on chart paper and decide what to share in their presentation to the rest of the class.

While students are writing out their solutions, we as teachers need to be aware of students’ use of different ideas.  The teacher acts like the mediatory in a congress to mitigate discussion and conversation.  Questions a teacher should ask him/herself are:

1)   What ideas/strategies in the solution should be discussed?

2)   How do the above connect to the lesson learning goals and previous knowledge?

3)   Which ideas can be generalized and how do I develop a strategy for students to come to these generalizations?

4)   Between the solutions I want presented, how will I have students present, so it is in a manner that scaffolds learning for students?

During presentations probing questions are necessary in order to facilitate discussion.  Some sample questions could be:

1)   What are the similarities and differences among solutions presented?

2)   Will this strategy always work?  Why or why not?

Again this type of discussion is of great value.  Typically students are not asked to defend their thoughts, and will stumble initially but with practice they will become more comfortable in communicating their thoughts about their understanding of concepts being taught.

Have you tried any of the 3 strategies?   Will you try any of the three?

Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome!  Drop us a comment or leave us some samples, we would love to share what you have learned and continue to learn.


Resources consulted for this post:

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