Where Rigor Meets Engagement

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Rigor?

on Dec 6, 2015


Outside of educational circles, the word “rigor” is associated with rigidity, severity, and even suffering.  Within the walls of the math classroom; however, rigor has an entirely different meaning.  Rigor in math is marked by learning tasks that are intellectually stimulating, personally connective, and thought-provoking.  Math rigor, in other words, is anything but boring.  Conversely, rigor is highly engaging!

A wonderful book on the subject is aptly titled, Realizing Rigor in the Mathematics Classroom, by authors Hull, Miles, and Balka in 2014.

Below are some key points from their work with specific ideas on utilizing the Math in the Fast Lane resources to develop math rigor every day.

Math Rigor Looks Like:

  • Explicitly demonstrating how math concepts connect and unfold, rather than in isolation. (Standards Walls provide this connectivity between concepts.)
  • Highly visible student work in which feedback is provided while students are thinking about the math, not later when it’s largely ineffective. (Sticky notes, bowties, cubes, white boards, sorts, success starters.)
  • Hearing and observing students discuss how problems are solved.  They also note that perseverance IMPROVES when students work in partners or small groups. (Sorts, bowties, cubes, pairs, RAFT’s, success starters.)
  • Student delivery of mathematical explanations. (Sometimes-Always-Never’s, Facts/Fibs, RAFT’s, While You Were Out’s, sorts, success starters.)
  • Defending how a student’s work is correct…or incorrect. (Error Analysis.)
  • Connectivity to real life. (Success starters, RAFT’s, menus.)

Math in the Fast Lane incorporates tasks that are as engaging as they are rigorous.  Students typically love Facts/Fibs, Agree/Disagree’s, and Sometimes-Always-Nevers.  They like to outsmart their friends by finding exceptions. RAFT’s make writing fun, because students get to step into the role of a chef, a contractor or a banker.  The message:  real people in real careers use this math!

Rigor, dull?  It’s the opposite!  Learners sharing, explaining, defending, and connecting – that’s a rigorous math classroom!