**1. I will do math!** Before you dive into that next math unit, take a turn at solving the math problems from the end of unit assessment. Pay attention to your thinking when solving the problems, and note your thoughts and feelings during the process. Challenge yourself to solve the problems several different ways. It might take a little extra time, but you’ll be a better teacher for it.

**2. I will not pick up a child’s pencil.** The temptation to show students how to solve a problem is strong. But when you are holding the pencil, you are doing the problem solving – no matter what words are coming out of your mouth! Plus, do you really want to touch a kid’s pencil and get their germs? Yuck.

**3. I will let them grapple.** It is difficult (sometimes painful!) to allow time for students to work out a math problem, but the pay off is worth it. Instead of seeing yourself as a teacher of math strategies, think of yourself as a facilitator of thinking. They might whine, they might pout, they might even cry. But in the end, they’ll build stamina for problem solving and be better off for it. Let them grapple!

What to do when a child is really struggling or won’t get started? Try some of these questions:

Have you seen a problem like this before?

What tools could you use to get started on this problem? (blocks/drawings/grid paper)

What would you do if the numbers were smaller?

Which words in the problem give hints to an operation that might work?

What strategies do you think your classmates might be using?

**4. I will provide hands-on tools.** When I’m observing teachers, the most impressive lessons often follow the CRA model (concrete, representational/pictorial, abstract). Allowing students to use blocks, tiles, and counters strengthens their conceptual understanding. It ties their drawings and equations to something real. Even students who seem advanced can benefit from representing complex problems with concrete objects.

Not sure how to use manipulatives to teach a math concept? Ask your students! What tools could we use to represent this math problem concretely? How would you show your work with that tool? How would you represent what you did with an equation?

**5. I will be a learner. **Your students are creative, even if they struggle academically. Allow your mind to be blown by their interesting ways of solving math problems. Listen to their ideas and let them show you how they tackle math challenges. Chances are, their strategies will not be the ones from a book, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t brilliant. This teaching practice also makes your life easier: assign a problem, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and learn from your kids.