Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: "Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction"

In an attempt to find and implement effective strategies to differentiate instruction in my classes, I purchased "Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction" by Marian Small. I purchased the book from the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) web site.

The Good: The book does a great job giving examples of open questions and parallel tasks that can be used for student from Kindergarten up through 8th grade. The levels are grouped by k-2, 3-5, and 6-8. And, there are examples of both question types for all the groups across all of the "Big Ideas" derived from NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The examples themselves were of high quality and the advice for creating your own questions didn't require intensive planning labor.

The Bad: Like every other resource I've encountered, there seems to be an assumption that the right questions will transform all your students into active participants that will suddenly take charge of their learning. The author writes about it as if its a foregone conclusion that everyone will suddenly enjoy learning math and immerse themselves in the questions. There isn't any discussion about how to actually make it happen. I will use strategies because I like the concepts, but I have no delusion that I've solved my struggles with keeping students engaged while I work with individuals or small groups.

Overall: I do recommend the book because of the sound teaching strategies and plethora of example problems for elementary and middle school students. If you're struggling with apathy and lack of effort from students, I don't foresee this book providing the solutions to resolve those issues.