Dr. Marian Small – How to foster critical thinking in math…


One of the greatest things about being a teacher is the constant push in our profession to become better.  We know the better we get, the better our students will get.  It is this knowledge, that motivates and encourages me to keep learning.  Yesterday, we were fortunate to take part in a PD opportunity with Dr. Marian Small.  Having been introduced to Dr. Small’s work while student teaching, I was pretty excited to be able to learn more.  I was not disappointed.  One of the biggest take aways from the math PD was for me to remember “smarter” teaching.  Learning how to ask and form proper questions takes practice and I know that it is something that I need to work on.  What struck me was how changing just the tiniest word can have such a huge impact on kids learning.  If we really want students to be problem solvers then we need them to critically think.  We need them to have discussions and get uncomfortable.  We need to be okay with not having all the answers.

Things I want to remember:

  1. Use ambiguous words (words that are not quantifiable): A couple, huge number, most, more than half, less than half, almost, about, lots, so many, huge, tiny, hardly any, really steep, just a few… etc.
  2. Less words, the better
  3. Use questions that have many, MANY answers.
  4. Create questions where it can be easy enough so that every child can be successful AND every child can be challenged.
  5. When thinking about questions always think about what will I ask next, what’s the second part, third part, etc.
  6. ALWAYS have a purpose.  Some kind of knowledge that I want students to walk away with.  Discuss this at the end.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Marian Small – How to foster critical thinking in math…

  1. Those are great takeaways.

    My favourite part of Dr. Small was the way she interacted with everyone and talked about trying to teach too many standards. If we make students uncomfortable and provide an option for many answers, and then have them convince each other, we’re actually creating an opportunity for deeper learning.

    I’m looking forward to going through a bunch of our standards and narrowing them down for fewer words and bigger ideas, I hope this will improve our, and our students’ understanding of mathematical concepts.


    1. YES! I definitely agree. I loved the idea of making students uncomfortable. If it made a room full of educated professionals uncomfortable then of course it will get students thinking! I can’t wait to give it a try. I love that you thought about going through the standards and making many of those standards work for one question is an awesome idea. Maybe you can come and join us for our math co-planning! 🙂


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