While working on this warm-up, students will need to think about some of the following questions:
When students struggle to get started or to think about a new problem, I ask them to find a way to articulate exactly what about that problem confuses them. Often this is quite difficult, but the result of doing this is that it is much easier to make progress. For instance, students are often able to answer their own questions once they have articulated these questions. The questions above are good examples of the types of questions that we want students to be asking. So I ask myself: How can we coach them to ask these questions?
I start by telling them that I will only help them if they can ask me a question that shows you have already thought about the problem. Though this requirement may seem a little wishy-washy, it actually sets a pretty high standard for a question. This is also a great way to create a classroom culture where MP1 happens on a daily basis: if students have to think about a problem in order to even get help, then they have to do a lot of sense-making.
Once students ask such questions, I try to get them to answer their own questions. If they can’t, I ask them to ask their partner. Almost always, my students tell me that they already did ask their partner. Almost always, this is not fully true (perhaps they did, but the partner didn’t listen.) To enforce this expectation, I tell them that I will stand there with them while they ask their partner and listen to their conversation. Though this seems like a lot of time to spend with one pair of students, the more you do this, the more they will actually learn how to talk to each other effectively. Also, if they know that you are going to do this, they will be much more likely to attempt the conversation with their partner before you arrive at their table, which means that they will make much more progress.
If all else fails, I ask the students the questions listed above. Often if you generate the questions, they can more easily think about answers. I think it is better if they come up with the questions and the answers, but as they are still learning how to think this way, I model the process by telling them the questions that I would ask if I were trying to tackle these same warm-up problems.