It’s Not about Coding, It’s not about iPads, Smartboards or Apps. WE MUST TEACH STUDENTS TO THINK…

WHEN I spend too long at my computer, working on materials to help teachers work with students, to help build understanding in mathematics and science, I start to have “panic” type attacks. The world is moving at such a pace, how are we going to keep up. I guarantee it will not be by memorizing flashcards or remembering the 13 or more steps to long division. I agree there are some things I would like kids to have as tools to aid their calculations BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF LEARNING, of knowing how to learn, what to believe, trust, question, how to challenge yourself to learn as much as you can, to pursue more and more knowledge, to love to think, puzzle, problem solve, to want to solve the puzzles in this world.

The sad and simple truth I have learned, is that the majority of our kids do not learn to love learning by memorizing facts and filling in worksheets. Do not confuse learning with compliance. And do not get me started on how much of the day the majority of our students in the majority of classrooms are doing just that!!! No matter what nonsense the media might choose to splash across their headlines and blog pages, very few classrooms across North America look any different than they did in the 50’s. I am not criticizing teachers, just reporting the facts m’am.

When I watch the latest buzz around how we will make the DIGITAL GENERATION MORE attentive, interested, engaged , when I see the latest book, app, gadget supposed to teach them some key skill,  I shake my head…. One of the latest crazes is programming and coding… Folks get with it… if I want to learn to code and I have a flexible, critical and well-oiled brain, I will learn. But will I need to learn to code, within a few months, days, minutes, seconds, why will it matter? I can do anything I need to do with computers without knowing coding… and that will include getting some pretty high paying and exciting jobs.

(this excerpt from a new product at Spark Fun prompted this thinking…)

By interfacing the Sandbox to your computer via a USB cable, the Sandbox can be programmed using the popular Arduino programming environment. To further simplify the learning experience, we’ve designed the Sandbox and its guide around using a simple, “blocky”, programming add-on to Arduino called, Ardublock. Using ArduBlock – a simple, graphical version of the popular Arduino programming language – you will be able to program all of the experiments with a simple graphical interface instead of writing code.

INSTEAD OF WRITING CODE is what caught me.

We are already out of date and gosh I just heard that “coding” is the new “skill.” That’s why I continue to rant and rail. Stop being sidetracked by the lure of quick fixes….TEACH KIDS HOW TO LEARN, HOW TO THINK CREATIVELY, CRITICALLY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY. Yes, you might be able to do that through some coding activities but TELL them the point is to learn how you learn… to be a better, more effective and efficient LEARNER.

Let them in on the learning we are doing around thinking… engage them in problems and contexts that require thinking and talk about the thinking NOT THE ANSWERS. Teach them to pay attention to thinking, organize their thinking, share their thinking, communicate about their thinking, evaluate their own thinking.

If the thinking is SOLID, the Answer will be correct but this is not a two way street.

But IF THE ANSWER IS CORRECT does not necessarily mean the thinking was solid.!!!!

I love this visual. a grade one thinking about 7. What is my job as a teacher? He has done his job, he solved the problem… now what do I do?


How can I help him capture, refine and improve his mathematical reasoning. How can I help him “KNOW” what he obviously knows and move on to new learning?

I am greatly disturbed by this visual from a Grade 7… How did this student get to Grade 7 without any idea whatsoever of how to image a fraction of a number?




cherries 3

This is a “picture” to explain her thinking for adding fractions. 1/3 + 1/4 = 2/7 = 25. The 25 is a direct literal interpretation of the picture of 7 dots as her answer. Two are black and 5 are not so she wrote 25.


 How are they related is THE QUESTION. It is THE question, in every discipline…..

Imagery opens the door to imagining and imaging means you are actively engaging your brain. Take the time to let students build their understandings….  Compare FractionsPuzzle with kids. Teach them to puzzle and think and puzzle some more….

puzzled copy copy