Teaching Students to Become Mathematical Thinkers

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


One intent of the Common Core is to engage students in deeper learning. Doing so requires teachers to rethink their math instruction. While they are still responsible for teaching students foundational math skills that increase in complexity, ISA’s approach is not based on content for students to learn only the foundational mathematics skills. We want mathematics to be more accessible to students. We want students to become mathematical thinkers—to think mathematically- for only when students think mathematically will they understand math on a deep level, which leads to for further mathematical study and careers in mathematics.

Therefore, ISA supports teachers to use an inquiry-based approach to mathematics instruction. This approach requires students to consider math concepts as more than a set of detached facts and formulas. It enables students to think critically about the structure of mathematics and communicate how and why they solve equations. It provides students with a deeper understanding of math in order to use the concepts to solve both routine and unconventional problems.

For example, in ISA math classes, teachers provide students with rigorous curriculum content, performance tasks, and additional learning resources to encourage students to do more than just digest mathematical equations. ISA coaches collaborate with teachers on using inquiry-based instructional strategies to help students question, search for patterns and test their assumptions to find solutions based on evidence.

To learn more about this approach to teaching and learning mathematics, read “Developing Mathematical Thinking: A Guide to Rethinking the Mathematics Classroom” by ISA Senior Math Specialist, Dr. Jonathan D. Katz.