Quadratics Chain - Math Activity

on Friday, December 6, 2013
My competing love and disdain of worksheets has led me once again to seek out an activity that has built-in practice while giving students a break from traditional bookwork. I happened upon this post from Kim Hughey about her Star chain activity. The idea is that you start of with 11 or 12 questions that have unique solutions. You put the answers on a different square than the question appears. Students cut the sheet and line up the the questions with the correct solution as they go.

Here's what my page looked like. I used it for our lesson on graphing quadratics (and Newton's Formula). Some of my students come from middle schools that prepared them very well with how to use their calculator while others have no idea how to work it. This was a great activity because it allowed the students who knew what they were doing to zip right through without listening to me explain how to do a bunch of problems. Since it is a self-checking activity, they could tell right away if they were on the right track because the answer would either be there or not (kind of like a multiple choice test scenario...). The students who were less confident were able to take their time and ask questions as I roamed about the room.
Here is a link to the downloadable document: pdf / dock
Here is the answer key for my "star chain".

If you notice, I did a few things different than Kim's original star chain. I had a definite start point that my students began with. This allowed me to have a definite end point (which is the square in the far right). I wanted to have at least one open ended question for my students to be able to answer. Also, you'll see that in the top right corner of each square there is a letter. I found a word that is 12 letters long without repeating a letter and put one in each box. The word I found was AMBIDEXTROUS. I did this so as I was walking around, I would be able to look at the letters and know if a kid was on the right track or not.

But.... I know high school students would try and figure out what the word was as they went, and then figure out how to line everything up without actually doing the problem. So how did I get around this? I spelled it backwards. The first question they do is the S. The second question is the U, and so on. I wasn't sure if it was going to work.... but they were all totally stumped.

I got a lot of, "What's suortxedibma?"

Yeah.... imagine hearing 100 kids try and sound that one out! 

Everyone's an Expert - Math Review Activity

on Thursday, December 5, 2013

The last few years when I would spend class time reviewing for a test, I found myself exhausted from explaining the same problems every hour. This year I got to thinking, "What if my students did more of the talking?" I firmly believe that whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning, so shouldn't I want my students to talk more than I am?!

That's where this activity comes into play. I call it, "Everyone's an Expert."

Here's how to set it up:

As prep work, you will need to create a question for every pair of students you have in your class. My largest class is 28, so I made 14 questions.

I printed each question onto different colored sheets of paper so it would be easy for students to keep track of what papers belonged to each person.

The day before we did this activity I handed each student a slip with a question on it (making sure I handed out 2 of every question). Before they left they needed to check their answer was correct with me and turn in their question - mostly so they wouldn't lose it! This is the question they are an expert for.

On the day of this activity I set up my desks in a circle. When students came in I handed them the question slip they completed the previous day. They were instructed to sit directly across from the person who did the same question. Once seated, I had students get extra question slips for the rotation. I told the students sitting in the inside circle to get 26 slips of the question that matched the one they did. Once they are back at their table they should split the slips with their partner. That way each person who did question #1 has 13 slips of question #1, each person who did question #2 has 13 slips of question #2, and so on.

To begin, you rotate! I had my inside circle do the rotating. The key is to tell students to bring everything with them - including those question slips. When they do this rotation, they will be sitting across from someone who is an expert on a different question. So they swap question sheets and work individually on their new problem.

In the first minute or two when students are working, it will seem eerily quiet. Don't be nervous. However, you'll start to hear whispers turn into great conversations about the problems they are working on.

The first time you do this you'll want to monitor conversations and know when to call for a rotation. My downfall this year was that the time it took to answer a question varied greatly - one was to explain the ceiling function and another was to run a linear regression and explain all of the values in the context of the problem. As a result, some conversations got off track because they had too much time, and for others they didn't always have enough time to finish.

Well, that's how to make everyone an expert!

The beauty about this activity is when a student gets stuck, they can look up and immediately see someone who already knows how to do the question! Also, when a student finishes, they have a person who can tell them if they got it right or not.

Even the kid who doesn't talk a lot in class and might be intimidated by talking to the football player is put on an even playing ground with this activity. Because it is a one-on-one scenario, and the student already has the answer to their own question, it is a low-risk and high-success review activity.

I will definitely be doing this one again!