Grade(s): 4-6, Technology Access: 1:1 iPad
What was your overall goal in using CueThink with your students?
I have a couple of main goals. The first is for students to become more confident in their use of mathematical problem solving strategies. The added confidence allows students to be more open to developing a range of problem solving strategies. Another goal is to allow for students to develop as both independent learners and to also work collaboratively. CueThink is a tool that allows for the flexibility to achieve this.
How did you structure your use of CueThink with your students?
Every week I set a Thinklet for the whole class. Even though I have a range of abilities in my class with a range of age levels, I find that CueThink is a great tool to cover such a range. This is because the problem that I set can usually be solved using a variety of strategies. Some students may use a simple 'guess, check, revise', while more capable students may solve the same problem through use of an algebraic expression.
My students are comfortable with asking for assistance. Some students like to involve other family members in their work; this allows for some great family discussion and links school with home. The students also read the annotations that I make to get ideas or assistance. The most important tip I use for building educational resilience and differentiation: the answer is not the most important part! I have tried to instill in my students that the process, not the answer, is the defining part of problem solving. Taking the onus away from getting the 'right answer' and focussing on the individual's thinking processes has made a huge difference in my class.
At the end of the week, I discuss the previous week's problem with my class. Students discuss their problem solving process, what made it easier, etc. I share some of the student's work on the interactive whiteboard, especially if the work is creative or innovative. I then introduce or revisit a problem solving strategy. This strategy is one that could be used with the new Thinklet. In this way, I try to scaffold the learning for my students.
How did CueThink most impact your students and your instructional practices?
The main impact of CueThink is that students are able to access engaging problems through a variety of problem solving strategies. It is very empowering for students to discover that there is more than one way to solve a problem. This allows the students to be prepared to 'have a go' with their work and show more academic perseverance.
For myself, the main benefit for me is that CueThink allows me to get inside the head of a student who is using problem solving. As much as I would like, it would be impossible for me to get around to all 26 students in my class to listen to them as they discuss how they have solved a certain problem. I just don't have that time! By using CueThink, I can listen to them and see their problem solving in a step-by-step manner. This allows me to tailor my instruction to the needs of individual students.
Teachers are always refining and improving their craft. How do you plan to use CueThink differently in the future?
I like to write my own problems as I can cater to the needs of my students better in this manner. However, after a couple of years of using CueThink, the creative well is starting to run dry. I think that I will probably like to look at the problem bank for ideas and use the creativity of other individuals to supplement my own ideas.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to a teacher who's just starting with CueThink?
Have your students concentrate on the process, not the answer. You'll be amazed at what they can do!