Minds on Mathematics Book Study Chapter 1

Today I'm linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules for a post about a new book we are reading called Minds On Mathematics  by Wendy Ward Hoffer.

I was interested when Sherrie talked about this book because I wanted to find a new way to work my math periods.  I love teaching my middle school smarties, but I hate that I am constrained to 42 teaching minutes.  I'm hoping this book will give me some insight into changing my teaching format.

One of the things I liked immediately about the book was Hoffer's  stress on creating a coaching environment and engaging a community of learners.  I want to be more of a "guide on the side" so to speak, but with the transition in sixth grade already a huge factor, with math gaps galore, I find myself "on the stage" directly teaching.  I'm not providing enough opportunity for extension to my UBER Smarties, nor am I spending enough time with basics and reteaching with my inclusion Smarties.

The layout of the book is simple.  It is designed with a Problem of the Day, a Question to Consider, then research and examples.  I especially like the "Yeah but" section.  I have a feeling I may have a lot of "Yeah buts."  Hopefully these will be answered as I read through the book.

Biggest Aha Moment:  
In chapter 1 Hoffer asks "How can we use our time in math class to grow students understanding?"
This is a great way to start the book, because immediately it forced me into reflection mode.  It made me think about how my students will be able to notice and use their development as mathematicians.
Chapter 1 lays the groundwork for the book.  I like the mini lesson mode; I like the idea of spending more time on particular concepts.  But I have questions:  Time is still popping up for me.  I'm also wondering about practice.  Hoffer discusses early on about how the classroom time is used for a small amount of problems. It is an introduction, something like a morning math concept or problem of the day.  Next comes a mini lesson, and concept development through discussion (work time)  The last piece is reflection..  My concern is that the example used is a fourth grade classroom, and then again, that darn time element is the elephant in the room.  

Components that are already present:

Many of the things that Wend Hoffer says about team work and creative communication are already present in my room.  After introducing interactive notebooks this year, I feel like there is much more hands on learning.  And with the focus in Common Core more on informational writing, I'm trying my best to do my part in the math classroom. 

Next Steps:
 I would like to see my classroom become more of a guided math environment with a teacher directed center, and then work groups.  I have heard people talking about Guided Math books that are similar to this text, but I'm concerned they are for a contained classroom environment, not a middle school setting.
I'm looking forward to diving deeper into the book, and hopefully working this concept out in my middle school classroom!
If you are interested in learning more about Minds in Mathematics by Wendy Ward Hoffer, you can click {HERE} to go to Amazon to order and join us in our book discussion!


  1. Oh no you didn't....You just forced me to load back up my Amazon cart ;) Truly, I'm kiddin' and a thankful for the tip. This book looks like it will answer some of the questions I still have about how to structure my day.


    Fun in Room 4B

  2. Love your post Michele! It sounds like you already have some important components of workshop in your classroom. I agree with you the 42 min would concern me. We went to 60 min core classes last year and what a difference it made. I think it's funny that she very quickly and quietly mentions that the teacher has to have other tasks for early finishers, but in no way addresses what they are. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Chapter 1:
    Love the statements: Students are capable of brilliance, Understanding takes time, and there is more than one way (page 3). Exploring multiple ways to achieve the result is something to be celebrated. Also agree that we need to adjust our goal from "coverage" to "understanding". We get so caught up in doing all the problems and keeping pace with pacing charts that we miss the opportunity to really delve in. When students give incorrect answers, it's always a tricky situation. We want to encourage students to participate, but we hate to make them feel self conscious for a wrong answer. I'm going to really stress the concept of teachable moments and that confusion can be great fodder for learning p. 16. I may even have the students take a problem, make a common mistake, and then trade with another group. We can then share this as a class to see the discourse that can take place and also discover why the error may be tripping up another student. There is much to be learned uncovering the errors.

  4. Michelle, my sixth grade Smarties are with me all day -- wishing you had them all day, too! Just ordered the book as my district is just starting to gear up for Common Core!

  5. Haven't seen this book yet--off to Amazon!

    Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes

  6. I am also hoping that the "yeah buts" are addressed in more detail. I'm trying to keep an open mind as I read, but it does require a shift in my thinking. I'm also wondering about a balance of the challenging task vs. good 'ole practice. I love the idea of a minilesson, but I'm sure it's going to take a bit of effort on my part. The example provided seemed awesome in theory, but I have to provide a great model and really trust my students' ability to recognize steps and strategies rather than me explaining an algorithm.

    Looking forward to reading your response to future chapters!


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