Stop! Collaborate and Listen…
If you’re thinking this is a Vanilla Ice fan post, you’ll be disappointed. However, “You’ve got a problem–Yo! I’ll solve it!” is the motto that my math team borrowed from the rap icon. No, this is a post regarding some of the collaborative methods I use in the classroom.
The first method is MAN OVERBOARD. In this activity I arrange students in groups of four and ask that they assign a “Captain.” I leave this up to them–it’s always interesting to me whom they choose. The Captain’s 1st job is to gather a marker board, marker and eraser for each member of his/ her group. I present a problem and have each student work “secretly” on his/her board. When the student has worked out a solution, he/she flips his/her board over. When the Captain sees that everyone has finished, he/she will say “Man overboard!” Then, the students flip their boards and discuss their responses until they can agree upon one. The Captain also has the responsibility to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the agreed upon solution. I’ve confirmed solutions for students in two ways: either discussing it as a group when everyone has finished (this takes longer because I have to wait for everyone to finish) or I present the problems on cards that contain solutions on the opposite side. Then, after the group has come to agreement, they have to reconcile their solution with mine as well.
The second activity is TAPS. My friend across the hall found this on the internet somewhere and, like most things I do, it is either an exact replica or adaptation of something I’ve stolen from someone somewhere–most times I can’t even remember the source. What I typically do is pose problems on individual slides in PowerPoint and print off the slides 6 to a page. I write the solutions on the back of the cards by hand. Then, I mass produce them so that each group has a set of problems. I ask students to assemble in their groups of four and tell them that the person next to them in on their team and the people across from them are on the other team. Students take one problem out of the envelope and all four of them work on the solution. Teams are allowed to collaborate. The first person to “TAP” the problem will have the opportunity to answer the question and check the solution. If he/she is right, the team keeps that card and earns a point. If not, the other team still has a chance. One caveat is that students who are strong in the subject matter, and quick, can dominate this game leaving classmates in the dust and without adequate review. I made it a requirement that the winner of each card present the solution to the rest of the group and answer any questions other group members might have.
Lastly I will present to you KNOTTY PROBLEMS. I found this on a DePaul University website I’ve attached under “links.” This activity requires a really difficult (AKA KNOTTY) problem. Students are given several minutes to solve the problem and identify key frustrations or difficulties they are having with the problem. Then, he/she presents the difficulty to an assembled group. They listen without interruption. After the student explains the difficulty, the rest of the group offers solutions.
I read recently that true collaboration really doesn’t happen unless the problem is too difficult/knotty to be solved by just one mind. Just a thought.
I’d love to hear what type of collaboration techniques that you’ve used, too–especially in a HS math classroom!