Revealing strategies

Ensure that students can see a printed copy of the problems as you read them aloud. This allows students to refer back to the text, especially when they are part-way through a solution process.

Practise wait time. This means allowing the student a reasonable time to solve the problem.

In judging how long to allow the student, monitor their body language (such as sub-vocalising) to see if they appear to be working things out or there are signs of stress. "Tell me what you are trying to do" is a useful prompt. This often results in the student talking aloud and coming to a solution themselves or reveals they could not find any productive strategy.

Students unused to discussing their solutions often reply with "I worked it out" or some similar comment.

Probe further with prompts like:

  • Tell me what you thought as you worked it out
  • What was the first thing you did in your head?

Be aware that students often learn as they are interviewed and that sometimes what they say they did does not match their later explanation.

Find succinct ways to record strategies. Empty number lines and patterns of equations tend to be best, depending on the strategy being used (jumping or splitting).