Monday, January 20, 2014

Math Ed: Sometimes We Have to Toss the Textbook

After winter break, my students started a new unit in our math curriculum, Everyday Math.  The unit focuses on data analysis among a few other things. The first three lessons were terribly boring and uninspiring.  My students slogged through the curriculum pages that focused on surveys and meant nothing to them.  It was painful.  The most painful thing was knowing I was doing nothing to make the lessons more interesting.  I was simply following the program.  It was awful.  So, I changed that.

Completely on the fly, I asked my students to think of a survey question to ask their fellow classmates.  The only rule was that the answers to the question should be numbers.  For example, how many cousins are in your family or how many hours of tv do you watch each day?   The end result that came about was fantastic!

The lesson idea was very simple, and the work and planning were completely my students' responsibility.  I gave them a few simple directions, then just stepped back.

1)  Ask your fellow classmates a question where a number will be their answer (example: How many cousins are in your family?).

2)  Collect your data.

3)  Present your data using the following guidelines (displayed on the SMARTboard for students):

4)  I set them free to work giving individual mini lessons during small group and individual conferences.  Differentiation was naturally built-in this way.  Many students especially asked for mini conferences about creating circle graphs and finding percentages.  Most of these conferences lasted roughly two to five minutes.

5) For four days, my students worked on this project.  They were not only motivated to work, but also completely engaged in their math learning.

Students walked around the classroom asking each
other their survey questions.  They collected data using
clipboards, paper, and pencils.  Low tech, yet effective! 

Organizing and Graphing data.

Sometimes the best learning can be messy!

The finished products started coming together.

Figuring out presentation was just as important as the
mathematical learning.

Finished Project 
FInished Project

Finished Project

Finished Project

Sometimes, unplanned lessons and projects that spring up can be the most powerful.  Now, I have 24 posters from students covering one entire wall of the classroom.  I think I'll take more risks and think outside of the textbook more often.  The results this past week were just fantastic! 

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