I remember watching and being inspired by Bob Ross, who used to have his own painting show on public television. He would paint all sorts of beautiful scenes, and encouraged the audience to paint as well. So I decided to pick up a paint brush. The problem was this: Bob Ross made it look too easy. No matter how many times I watched him closely, I was never able to paint something as simple as even a tree in his style.
The same can be true when we teach. I know my tendency can be to make things easier for my students when they're faced with solving difficult math problems. Students, though, should be actively engaged in solving complex problems on their own. This week, Jo Boaler suggests that students need to move from being passive learners to being active learners, that they need to develop a willingness to embrace struggle. She provides many resources to help students develop a mathematics mindset, including her online course which is still open for registration. And, in a new video series, two teachers, Patty and Maria, do an excellent job of creating a culture of active math learners by engaging them in academic discourse. Once classroom norms and discussion protocols are set, these teachers expect students to come up with their own ideas about mathematics and share those ideas with the class, taking responsibility for their own understanding of the problem at hand. Whether or not their reasoning is correct, the students have come to understand that the conversation itself represents a valuable learning opportunity. The final product becomes more than just a correct solution to a problem.