Critical Thinking Ideas

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, our math department reflected and agreed that we wanted our students to improve their capacity to think critically while nurturing their growth mindsets. TC²s critical inquiry approach aligned well with our board and school improvement plans focused on Modern Learning, deep inquiry-based co-learning with students using authentic tasks and critical thinking.It also aligned with our use of Non-Permanent Vertical Surfaces to support student collaborative problem-solving.In order to provide a consistent and full analysis of the equations, students had to discuss all aspects of each one.

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There is currently a raging debate in math educational communities that suggests there are only two options for how students can learn math—rote memorization or discovery.

The fortunate reality is that there is a third that combines the benefits of both these options and empowers students with the most essential tool for success in math—the capacity to reason effectively.

At Markville SS, we embarked on implementing critical thinking as a school back in 2011.

At the time there were limited examples on how math was supported.

Teachers and students experienced some difficulty unpacking these terms as they are not typically used in math classrooms.

Making clear to students what the process of critical thinking involves is difficult if it is not clearly understood.

This led to more thorough analyses requiring students to think about what they already knew and understood to be mathematically true (accurate math knowledge) about each equation, and all the mathematical details (evidence) given in each equation—two basic considerations that underpin all sound mathematical reasoning.

Implementing critical inquiry in the classroom initially generated a sense of discomfort for teachers in my department, myself included.

This is the first article in a series where math teachers and leaders share their experiences and learning using a critical inquiry approach in their classrooms.

In this first article, Chris Achong, math department head at Markville SS (York Region District School Board) talks about his experience with his Grade 9 math team implementing this approach to math learning—a comprehensive and balanced approach that improves the quality of every student’s capacity to think mathematically.


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