AI Challenges Us to Think Critically

May 2024

In January, a principal in a neighboring school district was placed on leave after an audio recording went viral in which the principal went on a racist rant. The community was swift to call for his firing. The investigation revealed, however, that a disgruntled colleague had created the recording using AI software. It took a forensic analyst from the University of Colorado to find “traces of AI-generated content with human editing after the fact” (Washington Post) in the recording. Apologies ensued. Richard Forno, the assistant director of the Center of Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, cautioned the public to be wary when finding information online. He said, “It’s becoming harder to trust your eyes and ears. You have to think critically before you retweet.” 

This incident will probably not be the last or the most egregious AI-related event. Technology is improving every day, which makes me wonder if there is any way to stop AI abuse or criminal activity from ruining someone’s life.

While this might seem like a somber or dire situation, I see it as an opportunity. Math teachers: This is our time! Yes, our districts and states have standards we have to cover, but in this current era, none are as important as teaching our students how to think critically. We might be in the Information Age, where information is a commodity that is shared widely and easily, but it is all meaningless chatter if we cannot understand that information and make sense of it. We must be able to think critically about it.

I am not suggesting we ignore the requirements, but I think we must have our priorities in order. Many of the required math standards are necessary to understand information and so are useful for critical thinking. For example, suppose we learn our local drinking water has 0.00002 grams of lead per liter. We need to know a bit about ratios and numbers to know if this meets the government-allowable lead levels of 15 micrograms per liter. Being able to prove that sin2 + cos2 = 1? Not that helpful. (And, in 0.36 seconds, Google returned 7,670,000 hits when asked for a proof of this identity. I think we are covered.) 

So what can we do? Start by having students convince themselves of somewhat small things: 

  • How do I know my answer is correct?
  • What facts do I have?
  • What is the evidence?
  • How can I prove that my answer is correct?

Then move them to convince a friend of something:

  • What are the available facts I can share that are compelling?
  • What argument can I make that will convince them?

A friend, however, is supportive and wants to help you succeed, so the real test is convincing a skeptic. Students can take turns being the skeptics with the caveat that they cannot claim they don’t understand or something doesn’t make sense without reason. If the facts are laid out before them, they need to acknowledge that. If they do not think the facts make the case, they need to point to where there are holes in the logic or where the data is lacking. 

While you are enjoying a well-deserved break this summer, watch for opportunities you can use in class next year for critical thinking. Test out arguments with your children, friends, and other family members. As teachers, it is our responsibility to prepare our children for what lies ahead. Critical thinkers will be in high demand, and it is up to us to make sure our students are ready. Happy summer!

Picture of Karen Wootton

Karen Wootton

Suggested Reads

You are now leaving

Did you want to leave

I want to leave

No, I want to stay on

Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

Edit Content

Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.