Book Study: Building Mathematical Comprehension

Chapter 4: Increasing Comprehension By Asking Questions

Children come to school full of questions and curiosity, yet by the time they get to upper elementary, middle, and high school they display a major lack of curiosity. In chapter 4, Laney Sammons makes a strong case for making students' questions a driving force of instruction, leading to more engagement by students and more rigorous learning. "Queries that are not easily answered inspire interest and lead students to think more deeply." (p. 117)

Proficient readers interact with the text, asking questions throughout the reading process. Doesn't it make sense that proficient mathematicians will also question and develop critical thinking skills? I'm thinking that as I implement Common Core math standards this year in 3rd grade, building on (hopefully) the work  in lower grades of discussing, explaining, and justifying answers I must model asking questions for students. The danger is that it is all too easy to be the sole questioner; I want to lead students to use the questioning strategy themselves. I have a feeling there will be a lot of learning for me here!

There is an example of an anchor chart of "why mathematicians ask questions" in the chapter, and that has definitely been added to my list of charts. Some reasons:

clarification of meaning
increased engagement with mathematics
critical assessment of the validity of the mathematics
monitoring understanding
identification of information needed for understanding or problem solving
interest in and curiosity about he subject matter
extending understanding beyond the surface information
(p. 122- 124)

One suggestion is having small - group strategy sessions to introduce this strategy. I probably would not have thought of this, but it makes sense. Students may feel much more comfortable trying out questioning in the small group environment than in whole group. Another great aid would be an anchor chart with thinking stems, developed in a mini-lesson with students (p. 135). There is also a problem solving graphic organizer (p 141) that I plan to reproduce for students' math journals.

I'll leave you with this quote, found on p. 144:

Teachers of mathematics can explicitly teach their students to generate mathematical questions as a strategy to help them clarify and extend their mathematical understanding.
Laney Sammons

Check back next week for a discussion of visualizing.


  1. Small group makes complete sense! I will definitely need to work that into my routine early on in the year. I'm adding this book to my professional wish list. Thanks!


  2. Thanks for this great post. I really like how you got down to the important points in the chapters.
    Great job.
    Thinking of Teaching


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