Teaching Intuition in Math

Do you teach intuition in math? Do your students understand what you're doing or are they confused with your teaching style? http://mathfour.com/?p=10403 #mathchatI had a great visit yesterday with Jane, one of my students. We talked about my new construction paper/scissors teaching style.

“I just don’t understand your teaching method and I’m so lost,” she started.

I explained how the online assignments and matching videos give the procedural part of the course while our in-class group work help students to understand why the procedures work.

I said, “I’m not giving the steps in class because you’ve seen it before and you can get them from the videos and the textbook. What you’ve been missing all these years is a deeper gut feeling of what’s really going on with math.”

We talked for another 45 minutes when Jane stopped abruptly and said, “Wait. I think I get it!

“In psychology, my major, you can’t just diagnose people by the strict listing of symptoms in the book. You have to use some intuition. So what you’re doing is teaching us to use our intuition in math?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

In fact, until then, I didn’t really have the right words to describe what I was doing. I kept using words like “teaching conceptually” – fancy words that just get lost in a sea of other fancy math-class words.

I’m going to start the next few class days with a reminder to the students. We’ll talk about places where they use their intuition. And I’ll explain that the in-class work helps them tap into their intuition in math – even if they think they lost it long ago.

Thanks so much, Jane, for helping me articulate this!

How about you? Do you teach intuition in math? How do you explain this to your students? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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One Response to Teaching Intuition in Math

  1. I think this has always been my problem with math. I was never taught to use my gut with it, and that’s what I do with just about everything. As an adult I’ve learned, what I like to call, work arounds that make math easier for me, and when I think about them they are all gut things that I do.

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