Hooked on a feeling…taking a qualitative leap of faith

So there I am, doing a classroom visit at a neighbouring school on a mission to talk Mathematical problem solving.  There may have been a few too many adults in the room as I am not sure who was doing more observing…the students or the visitors.  After the novelty wore off the students got down to work on some collaborative problem solving relating to the relationships between circumference and diameter of a circle.

I made my way into a corner to casually observe two boys who were seated beside the teacher’s desk (judging from some of the cracks I heard the boys make, this may have been intentional seating).  The first boy grabs a measuring tape, marks the circumference and creates a circle….a brilliant first move.  He then looks at his partner, looks at the paper in front of him, abandons the tape measure and starts to write the symbol for pi down a few times.  A few more jokes follow and a few more uncomfortable pauses as they realize that I am watching them watch me try to look casual.

The other boy then turned around and pretended to sneak a look at the paper of the group adjacent to them…brilliant second move! They exchange a few more laughs and throw a somewhat guilty glance my way as they get back to staring at their paper and doodling more pi symbols.

These two boys got me thinking about the importance of developing and nurturing a type of qualitative faith in our students.  If these two intermediate students had gone with their gut instincts …used the tape measure to rough out a circle…grab some ideas from a peer…they would have been half way done the problem in a manner that would be applauded in many organizations.  I only wish that more people had the sense of play and interpersonal zest that comes so naturally to many of our students….it also made me wonder how our classrooms and schools have often become stiflers of this instinct instead of cultivators…


About ottawabrent

Principal of a Middle School in Ottawa, Ontario Canada
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