### Socratic Method

Teaching with Questions

From Garlikov.com; teaching third graders binary numbers using questions instead of a "lecture" type style. Very effective; interesting read.

The experiment was to see whether I could teach these students binary arithmetic (arithmetic using only two numbers, 0 and 1) only by asking them questions. None of them had been introduced to binary arithmetic before. Though the ostensible subject matter was binary arithmetic, my primary interest was to give a demonstration to the teacher of the power and benefit of the Socratic method where it is applicable. That is my interest here as well. I chose binary arithmetic as the vehicle for that because it is something very difficult for children, or anyone, to understand when it is taught normally; and I believe that a demonstration of a method that can teach such a difficult subject easily to children and also capture their enthusiasm about that subject is a very convincing demonstration of the value of the method. (As you will see below, understanding binary arithmetic is also about understanding "place-value" in general. For those who seek a much more detailed explanation about place-value, visit the long paper on The Concept and Teaching of Place-Value.) This was to be the Socratic method in what I consider its purest form, where questions (and only questions) are used to arouse curiosity and at the same time serve as a logical, incremental, step-wise guide that enables students to figure out about a complex topic or issue with their own thinking and insights. In a less pure form, which is normally the way it occurs, students tend to get stuck at some point and need a teacher's explanation of some aspect, or the teacher gets stuck and cannot figure out a question that will get the kind of answer or point desired, or it just becomes more efficient to "tell" what you want to get across. If "telling" does occur, hopefully by that time, the students have been aroused by the questions to a state of curious receptivity to absorb an explanation that might otherwise have been meaningless to them. Many of the questions are decided before the class; but depending on what answers are given, some questions have to be thought up extemporaneously. Sometimes this is very difficult to do, depending on how far from what is anticipated or expected some of the students' answers are. This particular attempt went better than my best possible expectation, and I had much higher expectations than any of the teachers I discussed it with prior to doing it.

Great way to teach, it seems!

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