2.1 Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques – Most of the teacher’s questions are of high quality. Adequate time is provided for students to respond. This is an area that is more challenging in mathematics classes than people realize. Students have spent several years trying to find the answer and have little experience with dealing with the questions of why does this problem solving technique work.
Mathematics is different than other subject areas, such as history and social studies, where high quality questioning is a natural fit. The question of when Columbus sailed across the Atlantic is much less important than why it was done and what the ramifications of that journey are. However, with mathematics, most people can be competent practitioners of mathematics without understanding how the mathematics they are using works. In order to get to the higher quality questions, you have to go through a gauntlet of lower quality questions first. Students need to be able to see the process working before they can understand why it works. If they cannot see it working, they have no reason to care why it is supposed to work.
When I started asking the “why” questions of my students, they mostly just stared back at me. They had not been asked these kinds of questions, and subsequently, did not know what to do with these questions. The challenge was not in providing them enough time to answer, but to train them that the “why” question was always going to follow the “what” question. Once they realize the “why” questions were not going away, it was easier to help them look for the answers to the “why.”