Want to Know What Kids Think in Math? Let them Speak!

We learn more when we listen!

We learn more when we listen!

I am often asked about specific apps for math to which I always reply with questions regarding intent, standards or content. Almost always, I ask teachers if they have ever listened to their students during their problem solving process. This is where the blank stares happen followed by “aha” moments.

Evidence is telling and often written evidence is full of false positives. Our kids “get” the right answers and their work may even justify that. We make the assumption that they’ve mastered the standard. What written work does NOT tell us is if students truly understand what they are doing…as opposed to mimicking the examples that they’ve seen.

In the following examples, both sets of students turned in written work that was correct. Their teacher had no reason to question their knowledge…so she thought. On a whim, I went into their classroom and handed students my ipad to record their work. Watch and listen.

I played both videos as well as several other examples for their teacher. It was amazing to see her face upon realizing that her students were not quite as confident as she perceived them to be. Needless to say, incorporating audio quickly became a necessity.

Hearing students speak allowed her to address students on a more personalized level. She could answer the “why do we have to do this?” (Should’ve been cleared up front!) She could also address students who really did not understand and help them to get there.

When given an opportunity, students will elaborate above and beyond what they write on paper. The trick is to listen to what kids say as well as what kids do not say.

Teaching has to be more than about right or wrong. It has to be about WHY….which is where we should all start.

What if Students Do Not Have Ipads? 

Not having an ipad is not a problem. Most student devices have access to some audio application. There are also plenty of web applications that enable the same process. The key is to not make it about the quantity of work that students do, but the quality. Hint: Start with having kids upload 1 problem. Assign no more than 2. Use an LMS like edmodo or schoology for students to submit their work.

Below are a few workflow ideas but please allow your students some input. They can be pretty crafty. I say, as long as it has a link, and is unblocked at school…Let them use it.

  • MoveNote Students can add images and record video of themselves talking about the “why”. This can be done on any device!
  • Narrable allows image upload with recording. Students would just take a snapshot of their work. (There is a new edu version too)
  • Thinglink the whole process. Students would then link audio and video files to their image. They can snip their work together using any collage app or even using ppt or keynote. Vocaroo allows recording online and produces a link quickly!
  • Instagram now allows 15 sec videos. Yes, there is a time limit but the ultimate goal is for students to communicate what they’re thinking during a process. Would be great to link to their thinglink. (Mobile ONLY but can be viewed online)
  • Insert Digital Storytelling App Here” This is a great slideshare on online digital story telling tools. Again, as long as students can use audio and video, I’m good.
  • Evernote I use evernote for everything. The fact that students can take a problem and document the ENTIRE process, then share it is worth it’s weight in multi-device access.

Again, these are only ideas. I would encourage you not to focus on the catalyst, the tech. Focus on listening to your kids as opposed to only reading. Let their words, both said and unsaid,  guide you on your journey of helping them understand.

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