* Bansho

What is Bansho?

a. A type of sushi

b. A form of martial arts

c. A math teaching strategy

It’s a clever math strategy!  Bansho was recently featured in Teaching Children Mathematics, a NCTM publication.  Originally developed in Japan, this powerful visual strategy has been used successfully in Thailand and for this article, in Texas.  Daphyne Miller is the featured teacher.

How does it work?  Bansho organizes the math learning process visually (such as across a board or wall), encouraging student-generated ideas and discussion.  The board space is divided into sections that correspond to 3 phases in a lesson: activating prior knowledge, exploring a problem, and discussing/ extending the problem.  Students connect their ideas to others’ work throughout the process.  Teachers must anticipate student responses, provide hands on materials, and monitor student work and interactions.

What does it look like?  Depending on the problem being solved, a pictorial representation of the problem is on the left side, along with keywords and related vocabulary.  The center section features student work, organized in columns to show a progression from concrete to abstract reasoning.  On the far right, student work and teacher input extend the learning.  Check out Thinking of Teaching blog for cool images.

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How could this be adapted to support special needs students? 

  1. If you look at most Bansho illustrations, you’ll see lots of handwritten work.  Using digital tools to capture student work would help those kids who struggle to spell or even draw.  Smart boards could be an easy adaptation.
  2. Provide visual cues for students to communicate during all three phases of the lessons.  These could be as basic as index cards printed with cues: “Look at your partner.  Ask her to tell you her number sentence.  Ask her to write that sentence for you.”
  3. Pair students carefully.  Use a buddy system but don’t wear out the “helpers!”
  4. Encourage students to use their special interests when extending the math problem to varied topics.  This will likely make it easier for them to share their ideas with the group.  Allow video recordings for those kiddos who are reluctant to share in a large group.
  5. Be creative in reducing the visual clutter of a Bansho display.  This could include digital instead of paper worksheets, using a smart board for the entire display, or placing the three sections or phases onto separate boards.