While more proficient students work on deeper problems to stretch their thinking and improve their communication skills, other students work in smaller groups on tasks that address their specific weaknesses.
My own little group of three has been working on comparing and ordering numbers this month. We’ve been dealing with numbers up to 100, using hundreds charts, number lines and base ten blocks to scaffold the learning, and make things more concrete.
I am frightened by how big the gaps are!
Today, one of the tasks involved
It is taking all my strength not to roll my eyes or let the frustration show in my voice as I gently encourage my little group to think through the question to make sure they understand it, to check and see if their work make sense, and to prove that their responses are reasonable and accurate.
Truly, I am stunned by how many apparently basic pieces seem to be missing from some students’ understanding! Last week, one of them told me that 38 was greater than 72, because the former had more ones!!!
Although we continue to do our best to meet the needs of the extremely wide variety of learners in our classrooms, I am scared for some of our students with weaker understanding, and I am more than a little frustrated that they don’t seem to have had some of the basic home experiences that my own children have had, of calculating how many forks to lay on the dinner table when a friend comes to visit, for example, or counting apples in the cart at the grocery store, or checking to see who has more raspberries in his bowl at breakfast.
Sometimes my optimism diminishes, and I feel truly hopeless: How can our hard work possibly impact years of mathematical neglect?!