Slow Math Takes … Patience

From my husband’s Advent 3 sermon Something on Patience and Joy:

… We might lift up the teacher as an example of patience. A good teacher knows that finally you just can’t impose the answer in a student’s brain as much as you might want to. You have to wait for that student to do that work herself, or not. This is tough, tough work, but finally, there can be no hostile takeover of the mind and will of a student. Learning is voluntary; it’s not mandatory. You have a classroom discussion, and you hear a “wrong-headed answer” (Kenneson). You want to jump in and fix it. But you might kill the thing that is fermenting there if you rush it. You cannot take over that process. You can only make the invitation, and then wait to see if the student will do the work and make her own connections. Teaching takes patience, or it’s not teaching …

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.

#SlowMath First Day Message

What do you make sure your students take away from the first day of your class?

Our learning intention for the day: I can apply mathematical flexibility to show what I know using more than one method.

We used Jill’s learning progression so that students could self-assess where they were throughout the lesson.

Flexibility #LL2LU Gough

We started with Which One Doesn’t Belong.

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Students moved to the designated side of the room for their answer. Can you find more than one reason yours doesn’t belong? Can you find a reason top left doesn’t belong? Why can you say bottom left doesn’t belong?

We continued with a sequence for which there is more than one way to think about your response.

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I asked several students to discuss their responses with the class. After one student explained her rule, I asked other students to give the next number in the sequence using the first student’s rule. When I asked NA what the next number in a particular sequence was, she hesitated for just a moment. She looked at her calculator and then she looked back at me. I could tell she didn’t want to use the calculator, but I could also tell she wanted a second to think about her response. I stopped the whole class, looked at NA, and said, “We are not in a hurry. Take as long as you need to think before you answer.”

Every time I teach I have to Ease the Hurry Syndrome. Of course we could “do more” if we could go faster. But doing more and going faster isn’t what my students need. My students need me to carefully select which learning episodes (tasks, questions, interactions) will maximize learning. My students need me to give them time to think and time to learn and time to share.

Our students responded to two prompts after class.

During the first day of class, I learned …

  • I learned that I can solve problems in many different ways. I also learned that I need to have an open mind this year during math.
  • I learned the importance of thinking outside the box and how their could be multiple ways to answer a question. For example with the question that asked which shaped didn’t belong. All of the answer choices had reasons as to why they didn’t necessary belong.
  • I learned that math is a much bigger subject than I thought, and that anyone could be good at math.

This year in geometry I will …

  • do my best to not be discouraged when it’s hard but instead work hard with an open mind set to learn the material.
  • I will do my very best to succeed in Geometry and form a better explanation for my answers.
  • Learn how to make my math skills better and see things that I wouldn’t usually discover.

Our message seems to have been heard: We want to show what we know using more than one method, and we can often add to what we know by listening to and learning from each other.

I look forward to a good year enjoying lots of #SlowMath lessons.

The Slow Approach

Pearl S. Buck is one of my favorite authors. This Proud Heart is my favorite novel of hers, and I am currently reading The Eternal Wonder. The Eternal Wonder was written in the early 1960s, but then it was stolen and hidden by a former secretary and only recently recovered. I read the highlighted passage more than once when I got to it earlier this week.

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Pearl Buck was before her time on so many issues:

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It doesn’t surprise me that she alluded to The Slow Movement before it had a name.

What connection does “the slow approach” have to how we teach mathematics?

Suppose our destination is “I can write the equation of a circle in the coordinate plane given its center and radius”. If we tell students the connection between the equation, center, and radius, it will only take a few minutes.

But don’t we want our students to know more, see more, much more, before they reach the destination?


And so we choose the slow approach, hoping our students see, in order that our students might know the mathematics.

Buck, Pearl S. The Eternal Wonder: A Novel. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2013. 1564. Print.


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?

What Is Slow Math?

What is slow math? What does it look like in the classroom?

In a recent learning experience with mathematics educators, we used the 3-2-1 Bridge visible thinking routine for viewing and reflecting on my Ignite Talk from NCTM 2016.

Before you watch the talk, what is your initial response to the topic “Slow Math”?

  • 3 words/thoughts/ideas
  • 2 questions
  • 1 analogy/metaphor/simile (How you write this is your choice. You might start your sentence with “Slow Math is like … “)

3 words, before:

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Now watch The Slow Math Movement ignite talk.


What are your new responses to the topic “Slow Math”?

  • 3 words/thoughts/ideas
  • 2 questions
  • 1 analogy/metaphor/simile

3 words, after:

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1 analogy, after:

  • Slow math is like having a personal trainer who makes sure you do every rep the RIGHT way instead of just going to the gym alone and rushing through a workout with bad form just because you can get by.
  • Slow math is like enjoying a Sunday afternoon visit with family.
  • Slow math is like taking the time to let vegetables grow to their full potential.
  • Slow math is like a true friend who takes the time to listen to what you have to say instead of always making the conversation topic about themselves and knowing all the answers!
  • Slow math is like planting a garden. The wait seems forever, but the results are worth the wait.
  • Slow Math is responding with appropriate questions when students ask questions. It is taking the time to find out why something works. And “Slow Math” is taking the time to listen to others.
  • Slow math is like giving a child a lifejacket until you teach them to swim on their own.
  • Slow Math is like eating a nutritious meal – satisfying and useful immediately but continues providing benefits long after.
  • Slow math is like building something; it takes time, effort, support, work, and trial and error.

What is Slow Math for you and your students?