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How Encouraging Rough Draft Thinking in Math Class Highlights the Strengths of All Students

This is the first article in a two-part series about rough draft math, a concept that applies a process from language arts — creating, discussing and revising rough drafts — to math classrooms. In this Q&A, Amanda Jansen, a University of Delaware math education researcher, discusses how framing math as a shared exploration, rather than a set of right or wrong steps, enables more students to develop math competence and confidence. Jansen is the author of Rough Draft Math: Revising to Learn, published this year by Stenhouse. In part two, learn some strategies for how to foster rough draft talk and how to structure revisions in math classrooms.

You wrote that it is your dream for mathematics classrooms to shift from places of performance to places of exploration. What does that mean?

Jansen: When I think about math class being a place for performance, I think about the experiences that we may have had when we’re asked to talk about our thinking and we find it as if we’re being judged. “Correct.” “Not correct.” And it’s in public, in front of everyone. It’s more of an evaluation space in that moment. Instead, discussions can be a place where we’re all learning together from what anyone shares. If we shift our role as a teacher from an evaluator to more of someone that’s making sense out of ideas along with people, that’s a very different way of interacting. And the job of a student in the classroom is different. I’m going to explore with you. I’m going to share that idea. I’m not sure about it. And it’s OK. And there’s going to be something that we can learn from anyone’s idea

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