Math teacher’s textbook fosters critical thinking

By Eojin Choi

The Critical Thinking Co. recently published middle school math teacher Darin Beigie’s “Mathematical Reasoning Middle School Supplement,” a collection of theme-based activity sets that contain non-routine math problems for seventh and eighth graders.

After 16 years of teaching, which included years of experience creating his own material, Beigie decided to put a book together to have others see his work.

For about two and a half years, he worked on putting the materials together, creating new problems and finding a publisher. Last year, he finalized his book with the help of students, who tested out his problems. Beigie watched their reactions to learn whether a question was a little too hard or easy and sometimes altered the wording of some of the problems.

“I am grateful to all my students and school workers, who helped me bring the book collection to life,” Beigie said. “It was very exciting to watch them work on it, and I have been learning from them as much as they have learned from me.”

Beigie added that publishing a book was both a new experience and a familiar process. He thought about publishing a book after reading his favorite author Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that generally 10,000 hours will make someone an expert.

Since Beigie has been creating worksheets for many years, he said he considers writing his book to be a continuation of what he has always been doing. However, this was also a new experience because he had to make his book marketable and appealing to a wider range of students.

To distinguish his book from other workbooks, Beigie designed it to foster greater critical thinking and problem solving in the context of day-to-day curriculum. He said he meant it to be connected with the content that students see every day but also put a little twist on it to make them think more.

He worked to make his book more accessible and have problems possible to solve without direct instruction.

“I tried to strike a balance by including problems that students have to think about, but hopefully that are not too difficult for them,” Beigie said.

Although working on publishing his supplement was time consuming, it did not affect his schedule.

In addition, Beigie said that this experience has helped him become a better teacher.

“Writing this book helped me think more about what type of problems I was giving my students while helping me grow as a teacher,” he said. “I hope to keep publishing, but regardless I will always be creating new materials and fresh problems for my students.”