# Add Context to Lessons

Context is not one of the 4 C’s but it should be. When designing lessons I ask myself “why would the STUDENTS care about this?” What context can they relate to? How does the context answer the question “when will I ever use this?”

## Dollar Sign

I was working with my 3rd grader on decimals. She was struggling to understand why she would carry to the left instead of to the right. I simply put a dollar sign $ in front of the numbers and suddenly it was “easy.” How is it that a simple symbol suddenly takes a difficult topic and makes it easy? I find I am often explaining a math example in terms of money. Money is a context people understand. Random math problems that come from nowhere, hard to understand.

## The 4 C’s

**Collaborate**: Social Learning Theory by Dr. Bandura. We learn more together. Classroom discussion is highly rated for learning. How will I get students away from doing things individually at their desk to working with others and discussing their thinking.

**Critical Thinking**: Most of the math book is DOK 1. Follow steps and procedures and get the right answer is low critical thinking. The math problem may be HARD but it’s not complex. My quick and dirty for increasing the DOK is asking “How much do the students have to FIGURE IT OUT versus follow directions?”

**Creative Thinking**: Creativity is not a craft, it’s creative thinking which can be writing an essay. Are each students submitting something that looks similar? Then it is not creative thinking, and probably not critical thinking. Tip is to provide more vague directions that force students to make a decision that will result in their work being different than their neighbors.

**Clearly Communicate Ideas**: Communicating is not necessarily talking or using words. Students should communicate their ideas and thinking.

and I like to add “Context” and “Real Data” as elements to consider when designing a lesson.

Abstract Math without relating it back to the real world is confusing. Math is just a way of describing the world around you.