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Where is the Rigor in Math?

Guest Blog Post by Diana Herrington

Sadly, Diana Herrington, my co-author on the book “Teaching Math with Google Apps” passed away May 17th, 2017. Please consider honoring her memory by contributing to her endowment to make a scholarship available to students going into STEM fields at California State University Fresno. https://www.gofundme.com/dianaherrington

Struggling with that term Rigor in your math class?  Administration and other teachers will ask “where is the rigor?”  Here is an answer for you: Rigor (noun):  the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.  “My class’s analysis of the problem is lacking in rigor.” Synonyms:  Thoroughness, diligence exactness, precision, accuracy, correctness.

Rigor is defined by what students do with a problem, not defined by the problem.

Look at the following solution done with Wolfram Alpha — not necessarily a difficult problem but this is rigor without it being hard.  Having conversations about this process is quite powerful and helps students understand the term rigor better.  The rigor is in the pure process of mathematics — as a teacher, it is my job to ask the “why” questions until I get an appropriate answer.  Then I will give them a solution from Wolfram Alpha for another single variable equation and see if their process works and if not, how do we tweak it.

Modeling mathematics

The rigor is in the pure process of mathematics — my students came up with this generalization to solve for a single variable: all operations are binary, equations are kept balanced, to solve you need to make sure you are adding zero to your variable term and the coefficient of your variable you are solving for needs to be one, otherwise you cannot solve for the variable.  I cannot wait to see what they come up for their next introduction.

Taking time in the beginning to look at the rigor sets students up for success as they continue their mathematical journey.