Thoughts on “GPSing our Students”

In June Dan Meyer posted Your GPS is Making You Dumber and What that Means for Teaching. In it he makes the argument that providing step by step instructions for math concepts results in students being able to get from point A to B, while not understanding much about the concepts they’re supposed to be learning. His argument can be summed up with this paragraph, and is somewhat inspired by what Ann Shannon wrote in what teachers should Look for in the CCSS Mathematics Classroom.

Similarly, our step-by-step instructions do an excellent job transporting students efficiently from a question to its answer, but a poor job helping them acquire the domain knowledge to understand the deep structure in a problem set and adapt old methods to new questions.

I would tend to agree. I do give students steps occasionally but it’s often in order to simplify concepts and, if I’m being honest, to some degree avoid students truly struggling and grappling with the concepts.

I’m curious as to what others think about his post and the notion that GPSing students leads to less learning.

One Comment

  • Sam Morey Reply

    I only have one year of teaching under my belt. So by no means do I think what I do is the best, but I do think it incorporates the best of both world’s. For important concepts I typically create an activity to allow students to become familiar with the concept and then I help them “struggle” through the math. Then I ask the students, typically through a class discussion to generalize the process.

    In terms of the analogy, I provide structure for students find their way from point A to B. Then we work together to write out the “directions”.

    I like this method because I think students respect you more when you respect their time and effort. If I aid them in learning the concept then help them generalize the concept most of the time they realize that I am trying to help them utilize their knowledge more efficiently.

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