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Math Instructional Strategies: Notice and Wonder

I’m going to tell you a quick story from my fifth year in the classroom...

I had a 12th grader in my remedial integrated math 1 class (yup.. he was repeating this class for the 4th time). He ditched my class often, but when he came, he got to work and was really trying hard to pass. We’ll call him Fernando for this post. It was time for our systems of equations unit to begin (side note: I’ve got a great blog post about systems of equations activities here). I love the systems of equations unit because it has so many real world applications, plus I have a great method for helping students master systems of equations word problems (hint: it’s what this blog post is all about). I launched the unit with the Notice and Wonder protocol. I missed the memo however and thought it was called Know and Wonder, so that’s what I called it. Students were given a systems of equations prompt and asked, “what do you know and what do you wonder?” And then asked to come up with some answers using trial and error (since they didn’t know how to create and solve systems of equations yet). Fernando was SO into it! He was participating in the class discussion of what he knows and what he wonders and then he just went to town on the trial and error. It was amazing to see him so on fire for math!

What contributed to his desire to persevere in his mathematical thinking?

The math instructional strategy, Notice and Wonder.

Let me tell you all about it.

What is Notice and Wonder?

Notice and Wonder is a game-changer for ensuring students understand the context and information within a word problem or task before they’re given a question to solve.

Why Notice and Wonder is a fantastic math instructional strategy for students who struggle with math

Notice and Wonder is a fantastic math intervention strategy. If you teach intervention math students or any student who struggles with math, Notice and Wonder helps calm students' math anxiety because there are so many correct answers, after all, no one can have a wrong “wondering!” Once students hear you validate their answers, they will be more likely to participate in the mathematics too.

How to facilitate Notice and Wonder

​​Step 1: Find an image, word problem, task, or graph to show to students. Remove any mathematical question. For some ideas, check out more Notice and Wonder examples here.

Step 2: Ask students, “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” You can ask them to come up with 2 or 3 things they notice and wonder.

Step 3: Scribe student answers on the board. Class clowns will love participating with funny things they wonder. Celebrate that! They are finally participating!

Step 4: Reveal the mathematical problem and give time for students to solve.

See Notice and Wonder in action

Telling you about this amazing strategy is one thing, but showing you is so much more powerful!

I’ve put together 6 of my favorite quick math wins (math instructional strategies that take 5-10 minutes of class time and result in participation from each and every student) into one virtual professional development session called, The Math Engagement Workshop.

In the workshop you’ll gain access to clips of me facilitating each of the 6 strategies, including Notice and Wonder, with real math teachers. You’ll watch me facilitate it, so you know exactly what to do in class, then listen to teachers share takeaways and ask questions, just like you were there live with us!

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