Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beyond Numbers, Words, and Pictures

Communication in math has been a popular topic in SE2 recently.  Many conversations have been around the use of  pictures, numbers, and words. This practice became 'popular' back when EQAO started to ask students to 'Use pictures, numbers, and words to explain your thinking.".  It caught on and many classrooms back then (and even today) require students to show their thinking using all three modes.

My question is this:  can a student communicate effectively without using pictures, numbers AND words?  

This Grade 1/2 class was given this problem (I'm paraphrasing!):   Two buses can hold 22 students together.  The difference between the two buses is 4.  How many kids are on each bus?

Does this student need to write 'words' to convince you they understand the problem?  Those two equations alone speak volumes to me!

Students in this Grade 3 class were given a problem that involves them solving 7x6.

What more does this student need to do to convince you he/she is able to solve 7x6 using a variety of strategies? 

Students is this Grade 5/6 class were given the task to design a new logo for a car company that involves rotations.

Does this student need a write a long narrative explaining their thinking or are we convinced of their understanding of rotations?

I'm not suggesting that students NEVER have to use words to explain their thinking.  But requests for numbers, words, and pictures usually results in students writing the same thing, three different ways.  They start making things up!  

What I am suggesting is to have your students choose which mode (s) (pictures, numbers, words) they want to communicate with.  Ultimately, we want students to ask themselves this question when looking at their work:

Is my communication clear and concise enough to convince others that I understand this concept?

If we can get students to do this, then they'll make the decision whether or not they need to use pictures, numbers or words.

Funny enough, EQAO no longers asks students to explain their thinking using pictures, numbers, and words.  Prompts such as 'Justify your answer", "Explain your thinking", and 'Show your work' are now used in all three assessments (Primary, Junior, Grade 9) today.

Stay tuned for a post explaining the difference between the three!

1 comment:

  1. Helen VlachoyannacosApril 30, 2010 4:23 AM

    This is so insightful, Devika, and it TOTALLY makes sense!!! What I have found is that when asking students to communicate in all three modes, it ends up taking away from showing what they know because they get obsessed with having something in words, pics and numbers. Their communication becomes convoluted and unclear because of their concern to represent all three modes, when really, it was clear with one. It takes away from the math and from their understanding, which is usually clear and concise with one mode.

    Great post!!