Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door

Posts tagged ‘standards for mathematical practice’

But what are the KEYWORDS?




My team collab teacher was absent the other day. In her place was an older man whom I had never met. He was quite friendly and immediately introduced himself and was very quick to ensure that I understood that he was a retired teacher. Had been a teacher for 30 years and that he was there to help. Awesome! I was truly excited to have such a seasoned educator come in and contribute to the class.

At the time of the initial meeting, the students were in rotation (their specials classes). As they returned and entered the classroom, they fell right into their bell work. On this particular day, there was a story problem dealing with decimals that they needed to work through. They have been instructed on the procedure for these questions, so all of them are very familiar with the overly repeated chant of, “We make sense of problems and persevere in solving them!”

After some time of the students having been busily engaged the entire time, knowing that they are never finished and there is always another way to solve a problem, we began to discuss our solutions. This is the part of class that I love because we listen to one another, we are able to ask questions of one another or comment on work that we really like. It is our practice time of SMP #3 (construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others).

As we are discussing, the well seasoned substitute cuts in and asks, “But what are the KEYWORDS that told you to solve the problem that way?”


All eyes were on me. Pleading with me to bail them out. Questioning why we were looking for keywords. Asking why we don’t have those words posted? SCREAMING to me…KEYWORDS?! You never taught us KEYWORDS!!!

I just smiled. And restated his question in more familiar terms, which of course redirected them to explain how they made sense of the problem.

I am certain the substitute was aggravated that I wouldn’t just make it simple for them and teach them the keywords to look for. Well….I will never again teach keywords. I did in the past, and it didn’t take long to realize that keywords get confusing.  Keywords, as well as “rules”, often have expiration dates.

Here is a great article that lists 13 of these rules.  Interestingly enough,  keywords made the list…  number 2, actually.

What rules should be added to the list?

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