Investigations Blog

Asked and Answered: Why Ask the Same Question When You’ve Already Gotten a Perfectly Good Answer?

I was watching one of those legal shows on TV the other night. The prosecutor was asking the defendant a version of the same question for the third time. The defendant’s lawyer, getting annoyed, objected: “Asked and answered!” I’ve heard this phrase a hundred times in the (made-up TV) legal context, but this was the first time it struck me how pervasive this idea was in my own mathematics education, and how powerful it still is: If a student has given a perfectly good answer to a math...

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What Does It Mean To Be Smart?

“Wow, you’re so smart.” These words drew my attention to a pair of 5th grade girls in a class I was visiting, who I’ll call Cassie and Sophia. They were mid-way through a turn and talk, each sharing her strategy for solving 84 x 59. I casually moved closer, curious about what prompted the comment and trying hard to see each girl’s strategy, recorded in their math journals. Upon hearing Cassie’s comment, Sophia responded in an inviting tone, “No, no. Explain to me what you did.” She...

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What Happens When There Are More Than 10?

Imagine you are 6 years old. Or 7. You know you can use your fingers to model subtraction. For example, for a problem where there are 7 grapes and 2 get eaten, you can raise 7 fingers, put down 2, and count how many are left. But what do you do when the problem involves more than 10 things? Take a moment, before looking at the student work and video below. How would you use your fingers to solve a problem about having 12 scissors, and lending 5 to another class? A student I’ll call Miguel is a...

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The Lesson? Students Never Cease to Surprise Me

On a recent visit to a school in a small city in the Midwest, Karen and I joined a class of 5th graders as they learned a game in Unit 3 called Roll Around the Clock. In the previous session, students used a clock to find and name fractions and equivalent fractions. For example, if the minute or hour hand moves from the 12 to 3, it has rotated 3/12 or 1/4 or 15/60 around the clock. Students would use these ideas in this lesson. In this game, players take turns choosing which of two dice to...

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How Do We Support Students in Reflecting on Mathematics?

As I worked with teachers in classrooms this fall, the topic of how to help students reflect on their learning and the learning of others kept coming up. I’m still thinking about how to recognize, encourage, and promote student reflection about math ideas. What traits do reflective students possess? How can a teacher nurture a learning culture where reflection is a natural part? When students engage in math experiences that include time to reflect on their reasoning and the thinking of others...

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Watch, Notice, and Learn

Classroom video is a powerful tool for studying and reflecting on mathematics teaching and learning. Unlike in-the-moment interactions with students, watching video enables us to slow down and more closely examine student-to-student exchanges. This affords us a unique opportunity to learn about students’ mathematical thinking. Several months ago, I began watching and discussing video footage of elementary mathematics classrooms with a group of colleagues. We were using the footage to study...

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A Grade 3 Q&A: Why start with multiplication and division?

Question: Why does 3rd grade start with a multiplication/division unit and not addition/subtraction? Answer: We often hear from people who wonder why Grade 3 starts with a multiplication and division unit—just like it did in the 1st edition!—rather than an addition and subtraction unit. As we decided on the sequence of the units in any grade, we considered many different things. The most important was the development of mathematical content within and across grades. In Investigations 3,...

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A Kindergarten Q&A: Numbers Represent Quantities

As we said in the original post, our ideas for our blog are wide-ranging. We are excited to have a space that offers us the opportunity to answer common questions from the field. This Q&A is the first of that type of blog post. Have questions you’d like to see answered? Email us. Question: How do Kindergarteners learn to write the numbers, and use them to represent quantities? Answer: We are frequently asked about how Investigations supports young students in the development of numeral...

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Using Tools in Art and Math

Recently, I was chatting with a 7-year-old I know pretty well. I asked her about school, and she quickly started telling me about her current math work, complete with eye rolls and boredom. I decided to change the subject a little. “I know you like to tell me about math because I love math, but what’s your favorite subject?” I asked. She thought for a moment and then said, “Art.” Art was never my favorite subject. I’m not even sure I’ve passed stick figure drawing yet. “Why?” I asked. She...

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Puzzling Through Making Fraction Sets

Last year I volunteered in a third grade class. The school mainly uses Investigations 3. During a visit last spring, the class was working on the second session of the fractions unit. I was excited to find out about the students’ beginning understandings of fractions. I sat with a group of four students who were working on making fraction sets. Their task was to fold each of 5 sheets of paper into two, three, four, five, and six equal parts and then to label each piece. The students made 4...

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