Slow Math is … valuing why

One of our math teachers, Shera Higbee, sent the following to our math department over the weekend.

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Slow Math is not just about how to do math … it’s about valuing why the math works. I am grateful to work with teachers who agree. And I am grateful for students who recognize and appreciate that why is valued.


No Teacher Was in a Hurry

I’ve just finished reading The Classroom Chef, by John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey. The premise has #SlowFood/#SlowMath written all over it, and there are references to slowing down and taking time to listen throughout.


One quote in The Plating – Presentation Is Everything chapter struck me:

Go back through the Entrée stories you just read, and look specifically at the questions each teacher asked the students. Notice how no teacher was in a hurry; they let students discuss a topic or an idea until they were satisfied that the students fully understood it.

How do you make it evident to your students that we (students and teachers) have time to ask questions and learn together?

Steven, John, and Matt Vaudrey. The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons, Season Your Classes, and Make Math Meaningful. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.: San Diego, CA., 2016. Print. page 109.

Math … in One Word

How do your students feel about math coming into your classroom?

We asked our Algebra 1, Geometry, and Calculus students that question on the first day of class last year.




How do your students feel about math after spending a year in your classroom? Can a Slow Math classroom change students impressions of what math is and how they feel about doing it?

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What word do you want your students to think of when they hear math?

What will you do this year to make that happen?

Learning for a Lifetime

You’ve heard the Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

You’ve also heard said about someone who gives too much information: Ask her what time it is and she’ll tell you how to build a clock.

(Or maybe you haven’t; my attempts to Google exactly how to say the latter phrase were mostly unsuccessful.)


I recently received an email from a parent.

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What a gift for a student to recognize the value of understanding formulas instead of just memorizing them.


Several years ago, another student wrote “In middle school, I hated math, but having Mrs. Wilson for geometry changed that. She never just tells her students a formula to memorize or a method to apply to problems. Instead, her students discover the mathematic truths for themselves through classroom discussion and individual exploration, making math a story and a compelling one at that.”


I want to think that I’m providing my students the opportunity to learn how to learn for a lifetime: we explore dynamic figures using technology, ask questions, make conjectures, build arguments, prove conjectures.


But how many of them feel like I’m making them “build a clock”?

How many of them prefer “Tell, Don’t Ask” to “Ask, Don’t Tell”?


“Many times I grew extremely frustrated during class and wanted to just give up. Though Mrs. Wilson’s expectations are unwavering, her willingness to help her students in any way made us able to meet her expectations, though not without hard work and a healthy dose of frustration.”


I have some students who love the challenge, others who are willing persevere through it whether they like it or not, and others who roll their eyes, waiting to be told.

So I wonder: How might we provide #SlowMath learning opportunities for our students that sustain them for longer than the next test yet don’t make them feel like they’re being told how to build a clock they don’t care about building?

How might we create and foster a culture of learning in our classrooms, among our students, that will last long after they take our final exam?

We’ve got plenty to work on, as the journey continues …