Questioning techniques in Maths sessions

Questioning Techniques with one student I've been working with since the very start of the year has made a really big impact and helped improve her Maths skills no end.

This student struggled from the outset with quite a few elements of Maths fundamentals; particularly the Application Questions where there is a lot of text and you need to identify the information needed. In our first few sessions together we both found it quite difficult. I was trying various options to explain how to answer the questions and she still didn't seem to understand. So, I would solve it for her but then explain the method I’d used. This was frustrating for both of us as it really didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere.

However, by referring back to the Pedagogy Corner in the Weekly Update, and particularly the sections on Questioning, I used these techniques to improve the sessions and we started seeing progress!

'Be prepared to wait' was one of the most helpful tips I read. What I didn't realise at the beginning of my year was that I wasn’t giving the student enough time to think about the questions I had asked. I assumed that the prolonged silences meant she didn't know so I would simply give her the answer. However, after reading the ‘be prepared to wait’ tip and giving her those few seconds longer I realised that it was just taking her a little while to process what I had asked and thus think of the answer. Now if she doesn't know the answer, she will tell me straight away and then I break it down and ask simpler questions or give her an example.

In harder questions when more than one method could be used, using Open Ended Questions such as “which method will you use?” has really helped. This gave her the opportunity to use whichever method she found easiest or understood best rather than trying to force her down a method route which she may not be comfortable with.

Finally, ‘reversing the question’ also helped when she struggled to arrive at an answer. For example, if I was asking “what’s 80 divided by 8”, I’d given her thinking time and she still hadn’t arrived at the answer I would ask “what do you have to multiply 8 by to get 80”, she’d know the answer straight away! Asking the same question but getting her to look at it from a different angle was a good way to approach the question as it was still getting her to think and reach the answer by herself.

Overall just using these few strategies has really impacted this student; she has come on leaps and bounds and compared to where she was at the start of the year, she has made a lot of progress!