"There is something special about the closeness of working with a few mathematicians to tackle a problem." ~ Kassia Wedekind, Math Exchanges
What does "small-group instruction" mean in mathematics? One interpretation is to teach miniaturized versions of large-group, teacher-led lessons, with the goal of covering assignments and standards in a more intensive, short, small-group setting tailored to anticipated skill levels. In Math Exchanges, however, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind shares an altogether different vision of small-group instruction, one rooted in the belief that all students can and do powerful mathematical thinking. In Wedekind's small groups--or Math Exchanges--teachers purposefully gather groups of students who bring different perspectives and strengths so that they can learn from one another. The teacher and students have sufficient time to work together on rich mathematical tasks in this more intimate setting. As students collaborate, grapple, and learn, the teacher facilitates, confers, and guides the group to make connections across their work and think about big ideas.
We've made chapter 2 of Math Exchanges public and shareable because we see a resurgence in the push for small groups in mathematics. We offer Wedekind's vignettes and descriptions of Math Exchanges across elementary grade levels as food for serious thought. What if small groups in math looked and felt like this?