Assume Nothing! Why Some Strategies Might Not Work (At First)

Remember when analog clocks were the only kinds of clocks around? I grew up with them, digital clocks didn’t really creep into my life until I was in middle school. I learned to tell time at a very early age because of the lack of cell phones and computers with their digital displays. So, I always assume (which I NEVER should) that my third graders know how to tell the time.

I was reminded once again last week that assumptions are a foolish thing!  We were in the middle of learning about multiplication.  My goal is to expose my students to as many strategies as I can think of to learn multiplication, especially when the strategy relates to real life. I was so excited to share this strategy:

Multiplication Strategy

I shared it with my students, eager to see their familiar “oh, I get it” or “I can connect with that” faces.  I got absolutely NONE of that. They just kind of gazed at me with blank eyes.

So I said, “You know, if the minute hand is on the 7, then you know 5 x 7 is 35…?”

Again, nothing.

I couldn’t believe it. I asked (very gently), “Do you all know how to tell the time?” (We haven’t done a time unit yet this year, so I haven’t checked their understanding regarding analog clocks.) Instead of a resounding “yes”, I got many downcast eyes.  I took an anonymous poll by asking them to close their eyes and raise their hands if they know how to tell the time on the clock on the wall.  I was surprised to see only 2 hands go up out of 26. Ouch.

We really cannot assume anything of our students.  Now that I’ve unearthed this little gem, we’ve got two things to work on at once! We came up with the solution of labeling our classroom clock with the numbers to help us get more familiar with each tick mark.  When we get back from break, I am going to brainstorm with my students how we can use the clock in our classroom more often.  The more we use it, the more useful this particular multiplication strategy will become!

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