Students Waiting for Answers and Teachers Waiting for Thinking

In a continuation of working on linear equations using an input output table I was baffled by a students want for me to spoon feed them the answer.  Now this is not the first time in my short educational career where this has happened, but it frustrates me.  How can a student go from Kindergarten to 7th grade and not be taught to think.

As educators are we apt to give students the answers when they pressure us to with the words "I don't know" and "I don't get it" and then throw on their best sad/upset face?  While at the same time a kid across the room is demanding our attention for misbehavior edging us to cave to the sad face with a quick response of the answer.

The problem was as such y=3x  with a table X    Y 
                                                                    1
                                                                    2
                                                                    3

Now we had spent over three days talking about substitution, doing example problems, and physically graphing these lines on the side walk as human points.

The dialogue went as such: "Alright what should Y be?" "I don't know" "Ok remember we substitute the X value or number for where the x is in the equation then do the math" "I don't get it"  "Ok what does it mean when we substitute and what does it mean when we write a number next to a letter"  ...The student answers both of these questions correctly.  Then I proceed to ask what Y would be, and get the sad/upset face with the I don't get it and the death glare like it is my fault for not simply stating the answer.

I turned to the student and said I am not going to tell you what Y is.  I want you to try and a think about it come up with a guess or a reasoning.  In return I received more of the death glare and the student threw the pencil on the table.

Was my behavior inappropriate in waiting for the student to try to figure it out?  Perhaps, but at what point do we teach students to problem solve, experiment with the ideas, and connect concepts they have learned in class?  This student knew what substitution meant and that 3x means 3 times x or 3 times a mystery number, but what I have come discover as many others before me this student wanted me to give them the answer to not have to think or process.

As adults we frequently let students/children down by not having them work through their frustration, not having them think, or process to at least a reasonable guess.  Telling an immediate answer wouldn't reveal any misunderstandings that the student had.  When asked what she didn't get she would respond with a simple I don't know.

This think time and perseverance in attempting to solve a problem needs to be include far more often in education.  If a student knows she can turn to another teacher later and get the direct answer will they think for me? A constant battle.

Simply stated we need to teach students to think critically and not just go through the motions, and to apply their critical thinking to problem solving.


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