Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chapter 4: Increasing Comprehnsion by Asking Questions: Book Study (BMC)

"Questions lead children through the discovery of their world..."  (Keene and Zimmerman, 113) children progress through elementary school, something squashes this curiosity.
"Children enter school as question marks and come out as periods." (Postman, 116)

These opening thoughts in Chapter 4 definitely left me with something to think about. How can we continue to pique the curiosity of our students and foster that endless stream of questioning that was second nature to them in earlier years? Easier said then done, yet questions really are at the heart teaching and learning (117).

I wonder why... What if... How can... are just a few of the questions we want our mathematicians to ask in order to develop deeper understandings. Another interesting point made was "it may be more important to find the right question than to find the right answer (118)." How can we flip our students' thinking to this mindset? A key take-away was that students NEED to be the ones creating the questions, not the teachers. Students need to be explicitly taught to ask viable questions that will enhance mathematical comprehension.

Laney Sammons goes onto explain the types of questions and how they are related to math: Right There, Think and Search, On My Own. Sound familiar in the reading world? Teaching students the difference between thin questions and thick questions also can improve the quality of student questioning (128).

Skill: multiplying a whole number by a fraction
Thin question: Is the product greater than or less than the original whole number?
Thick question: Why is the product less than the original number?

When teaching about thin and thick questions, Sammons recommends using different size sticky notes for students to record their questions. 3" x 3" sticky note for thick questions; 1/2" x 2" sticky page markers for thin questions. Another recommendation was to have students write in a thick marker when recording thick question or a thin marker when recording a thin question. The goal is to help students become more automatic and independent at creating questions that develop deeper thinking and understanding.

Questions that linger also were mentioned. How often do we ask questions that motivate students to continue to ponder and revisit those questions? It these types of questions that leave a trail of "math residue" that leads to invaluable learning (129).

Laney talks about strategy sessions and how they differ from a typical mathematics lesson (131). During these strategy sessions the focus needs to be on helping students to develop rich mathematical questions that enhance mathematical comprehension. To use as part of a bulletin board or as a bookmark for students, I created a few visuals called "Get to the point..." to help in the scaffolding and building of students' independence. If you think your students can benefit from these tools, click on the image and grab a copy.

Check out an earlier post on questioning in the math classroom for these color coded question cards.

The next chapter is on visualizing mathematical ideas. Come back after July 3 and see what Sammons has to say about visualizing. In the meantime, feel free to comment or link up and share your ideas about student questioning in the math classroom. Don't forget to click on the schedule below and visit some other blogs hosting this chapter.


  1. I like the idea of having kiddos use different sized post-its for thick & thin questions, too. It really sets up a visual for it, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this chapter!

    Primary Inspired

  2. I love the post and I love the pencils. Thanks for the freebie. The quote from the beginning of the chapter about students coming out as periods really stood out for me too. I taught Grades 7 and 8 for many years and saw tis first hand, it's disheartening and frustrating. If I could go back after reading this book I would definitely do this differently!
    Thinking of Teaching