The Thinking Classroom – A Problem Solved

The US didn’t even get an A for effort in the most recently published results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures math skills, reading ability, and science literacy along with other key skills among 15-year-olds in 71 other countries. Ranking at a lowly 38 out of 71 in math skills, the United States was bested by the likes of Singapore, Japan, Korea, Finland- and even our very close neighbor, Canada, among many others. Thirty-seven others, to be exact. Some countries have it figured out, and with a steady decline over the years, we’re more than ready for the secret. The Thinking Classroom also implements vertical, non-permanent Classroom Management Materials such at whiteboards to problem solve on, which allows students the freedom to explore the problem across the entire surface. (An interesting note! Students rarely erase the whiteboards as they are problem-solving. Instead, they migrate to other areas and use the entire board, representing the chronological nature of problem-solving.) Of the various methods researched, students worked most efficiently and more completely on vertical, non-permanent surfaces. We don’t need a paper trail of failed attempts. We need a clean slate and room to think

Enter: The Thinking Classroom.

The Thinking Classroom is a development that stems from research by Peter Liljedhal, Simon Fraser University, Canada, in which the teaching methods were observed along with student participation and response to problem-solving. What he discovered was that students give up before they even attempt to solve the given problems. They were not THINKING. A critical component in the act of problem-solving!

Liljedhal’s research indicated a classroom that is conducive to thinking. This includes starting the lesson with a problem-solving activity with visibly random groups of 2-4. This allows the collaboration of ideas and thinking to bounce back and forth, furthering the thought process. Teachers answer questions, such as ‘is this right?’ or they provide hints that allow the student to continue problem-solving.

The Thinking Classroom also implements vertical, non-permanent surfaces such as whiteboards to problem solve on, which allows students the freedom to explore the problem across the entire surface. (An interesting note! Students rarely erase the whiteboards as they are problem-solving. Instead, they migrate to other areas and use the entire board, representing the chronological nature of problem-solving.) Of the various methods researched, students worked most efficiently and more completely on vertical, non-permanent surfaces. We don’t need a paper trail of failed attempts. We need a clean slate and room to think.

When students are given the freedom to think, they learn to solve mathematics. Better yet, they have what Liljedhal calls an ‘Aha!’ experience. He says, “That research showed that even one AHA! experience, on the heels of extended efforts at solving a problem or trying to learn some mathematics, was able to transform the way a student felt about mathematics as well as his or her ability to do mathematics.” This allows the collaboration of ideas and thinking to bounce back and forth, furthering the thought process. Teachers answer questions, such as ‘is this right?’ or they provide hints that allow the student to continue problem-solving. There are so many classroom procedures for first graders, but these are key procedures to lead your first graders into a year of success.

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