By Erika Salzman, Math Coach
When a student finds joy in math learning and can express that joy to 31 peers, you know you have succeeded as an educator. Some 4th graders in my school recently experienced Partner Coaching for the first time. The goal of this teaching structure is to have students explore mathematical ideas without teacher direction. They work independently, as part of a small group, and as part of a partnership. Although the teacher confers with the students throughout the process, the teacher does not give a “lesson” in the traditional sense. You can learn more about partner coaching on our webpage, in Teaching Structures.
I was inspired by the student’s reflections at the end of the hour. When asked what they liked about the Partner Coaching experience, one boy expressed his joy in working with his coaching group: “I liked getting together with my group to come to an agreement about our solutions. We didn’t all think the same way and it was helpful to see how someone else drew a picture of the problem. It really helped me understand.“
Another boy, an ELL student said, “I felt good when my coach helped me understand some of the language in the story problem. I know what few means, but in this problem it said fewer and I didn’t know that word.”
One girl enthusiastically shared about helping her rookie. “I liked how it felt to show my partner my solution. I worked hard with my coach group and after we finally came to a consensus, I was able to share my new understanding with my partner and it felt great because he had a lot of questions.”
Watching my students create their own understanding of mathematics is a powerful teaching tool. I can tell by their actions and reflections that my students feel empowered when given the opportunity to investigate and work to understand what each other is thinking. I love when children are the active participants and the teacher’s role is decentralized. I once heard an educator say that kids should leave school exhausted from a day of hard thinking and discussion, rather than teachers leaving exhausted from so much talking and teaching.