15 Feb

Conquering Rote Learning

I always enjoy my time with the year 3 student, we always do some good work while I’m there but I find it hard to be sharp in my questioning, to challenge him in what he is doing and really force him to actually think and develop understanding. Anywhere you could point me that would help would be useful.

With younger students it can be a challenge to challenge them. Often, they don’t have a very developed sense of logic and maths to them is simply remembering rules and how to answer different kind of questions. They are still used to rote learning and don’t know any different. Your student sounds a little like that? He just doesn’t think much for himself so whenever you question him he’ll just auto-respond from memory and doesn’t know any different?

You’ll need to find ways to trigger his thinking process. Development of logical thinking processes takes time. Some ideas that may help:

  • Get him to ask you questions. After you explain an idea or question, ask him: “what questions do you have about this?” If he says none, insist that he asks you something. Be patient and let him take his time in formulating a question. In the process of thinking up a question he will realise what it is that he doesn’t know/understand – this jolts the thinking process.
  • Ask him to explain things back to you. Challenge him by asking why/how he knew how to answer the questions. Why did he do what he did? How did he know not to do XYZ instead? How does he know his answer is correct? How can he check that it really is correct? If his answers doesn’t satisfy you, re-explain it to him and ask him to teach you again.

This approach obviously takes more time but if you don’t do this, he’ll not learn to think for himself. Also, be careful not to be too pushy here, younger students can be very sensitive or even scared of being wrong and making mistakes. If he starts getting defensive or upset, reassure him that he is doing fine, smile and be friendly – explain why this is an important exercise and praise him for his efforts and successes. Always end on a good note so that he continues to look forward to your visits.

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