But Why Does It Work? by Susan Jo Russell, Deborah Schifter, Virginia Bastable, Traci Higgins, Reva Kasman. Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom
But Why Does It Work?
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But Why Does It Work?

Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom

Getting students to explain and support their mathematical thinking is rarely easy. But Why Does It Work? explores a teaching model that takes the mystery out of this challenge! You'll learn how focusing on mathematical argument develops your students' ability to justify their thinking and engage with the reasoning of others.

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Full Description

If you ask students, "Why does that work?" do they know what you're asking and do you know what to listen for in their responses? Do you have images of what mathematical argument looks like in the elementary grades and how to help students learn to engage in this important practice? Do you have so much content to cover that finding time for this kind of work is difficult?

But Why Does It Work? offers a simple, efficient teaching model focused on mathematical argument for developing the ability of students to justify their thinking and engage with the reasoning of others. Designed for individuals as well as study groups, this book includes access to classroom-ready instructional sequences, each built on a model supporting students in:

  • noticing relationships across sets of problems, equations, or expressions
  • articulating a claim about what they notice
  • investigating their claim through representations such as manipulatives, diagrams, or story contexts
  • using their representations to demonstrate why a claim must be true or not
  • extending their thinking from one operation to another.

Establishing a classroom culture where students gain confidence in their own mathematical voice and learn to value the contributions of their peers is a critical part of this work. The authors tell us, “If the idea underlying a student’s reasoning is not made explicit, the opportunity for all students to engage in such thinking is lost.” As students become a true community of mathematicians, they heighten each other’s understanding by investigating questions, conjectures, and examples together.

Enhanced with extensive video showing the instructional sequences in action—along with guiding focus questions and math investigations—But Why Does It Work? is a flexible approach that will help students confidently articulate and defend their reasoning, and share their deep thinking with others.

Contents

Introduction

  • Content of the Book
  • Classroom Examples: Text and Video
  • The Lesson Sequences on Mathematical Argument

Chapter 1 Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Grades: What and Why?

  • The What: Representation-Based Argument
  • Examples of Mathematical Argument
  • Why Linger on Mathematical Argument?

Chapter 2 Elementary Students as Mathematicians

  • The Mathematician's Process
  • Facilitating a Community of Student Mathematicians
  • Why Should Students Act Like Mathematicians?

Chapter 3 The Teaching Model

  • Introducing the Lesson Sequence
  • Phase I: Noticing Regularity
  • Phase II: Articulating a Claim
  • Phase III: Investigating Through Representations
  • Phase IV: Constructing Arguments
  • Phase V: Comparing Operations
  • What Students Gain

Chapter 4 Using the Lesson Sequences: What the Teacher Does

  • Phase I: Noticing Regularity
  • Phase II: Articulating a Claim
  • Phase III: Investigating Through Representations
  • Phase IV: Constructing Arguments
  • Phase V: Comparing Operations

Chapter 5 Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom: Impact on Students and Teachers

  • Mathematics Content and Practices
  • Applying New Understanding in Students' Regular Math Work
  • Participation and Confidence Among the Range of Learners
  • Mathematical Argument: An Opportunity for Teacher Learning About Fundamental Mathematics

Appendix A Same Sum, Same Difference (Whole Numbers)

  • Goals for Students
  • Sequence Overview

Appendix B Changing a Number in Addition of Multiplication (Whole Numbers)

  • Goals for Students
  • Sequence Overview

Online Lesson Sequences

  • Sequence 1: Core Ideas of Addition and Subtraction (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 2: Changing a Number in Addition or Subtraction (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 3: Same Sum, Same Difference (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 4: Core Ideas of Multiplication and Division (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 5: Changing a Number in Addition or Multiplication (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 6: Factors, Products, and Fractions (Whole Numbers and Fractions)
  • Sequence 7: Same Product, Same Quotient (Whole Numbers)
  • Sequence 8: Multiplication, Division, and Powers of Ten (Wholes Numbers and Decimals)​​​​​

Samples