I bunkered down in the elementary school library to catch up on some reading.  Shortly thereafter a veteran teacher guided a young student to a table and chair about 20 feet from me.  I continued to read, but listened to the student – teacher exchange.  The student was learning about math, receiving remediation during summer school.  The student looked up to the teacher- eyes wide open – and excitedly inquired: “Wow.  How many books do you think are in here?”  The teacher responded, “Not sure.  Start your math worksheet.  Hang tight and I’ll be back.”  The student exhaled and just stared at the worksheet.

What happened?  Teacher, you missed a fantastic opportunity  to engage the student in the world of math.  Why didn’t you launch an investigation based on the students’ inquiry?  You could’ve incorporated exactly what the student was learning in meaningful way, assisting the student in unraveling the importance of number sense (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and estimation).  You missed the beauty of taking a real-life problem, and then COACHING the student through PROBLEM-SOLVING.

I couldn’t resist.  Once the teacher left, I jumped in.  Within minutes the student and I were plotting our journey to figure out the number of books in our library.  This made me reflect on how many “teachable” moments we miss as teachers, AND how we – all educators – frame and project our views of math to the students.

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