The task was simple, but mathematically rich. Students chose one of four challenges that required them to reason, proportionately, about the relative size of the zoo animals they had been working with at Open Minds School. Students had strewn themselves around the room and were working on the challenge deemed most appropriate and most interesting. They worked alone, with a partner or in small groups. There were blocks and chart paper and counters and hundreds charts in use. Students used their teachers as resources, but just as much they used one another. Every single student was meaningfully engaged. And the quality of their engagement wasn’t found in the buzz of activity throughout the room or in the kinds of manipulatives they chose to use – it was most evident in the nature of the questions the students were asking. The questions showed both self-awareness and mathematical awareness - an understanding of what was making sense, what wasn’t, where they were stuck and what they needed to get unstuck – because the work they were doing mattered. Learning mattered.
What did I learn today? I learned, again, how mathematics, offered up to the hands and hearts and minds of young people in rigorous and generous ways, is just stunningly beautiful. And I learned, again, that in the court of public opinion, intellectual engagement is worth fighting for.
Alison Van Rosendaal (@boyd_Alison)is a Specialist with Learning Services. She is passionately dedicated to public education, completely in love with mathematics, and profoundly grateful for the opportunities for learning that emerge through her work every single day.