Blog post: I Speak Math
So this week I’m having trouble picking a single blog post to respond to, because I’m not sure that I agree with a lot that Julie is writing about. So instead I’m just going to respond to her posts as a whole, because I find that they all followed the same type of path, anyway. I went searching and searching through her blog to find some cool activities that I could critically examine and imagine implementing in my own classroom, but everything I found seems to just be more fun ways of having students complete problem drills, for lack of a better word. I got excited when I saw her idea for math stations (I love the idea of math stations: students are working at their own pace, they’re collaborating with their peers at the same station, they’re moving around the classroom, you can differentiate the levels of difficulty..) but Julie’s math stations were made up of worksheets cut into pieces. In my opinion, that is simply assigning them a worksheet but making them move around to answer it. They are working at their own pace which is great, but I don’t see a high level of differentiation in these tasks, the problems are so procedural that there is no collaboration needed, and it’s just bland. If you were going to do math stations, each station should have a unique and open ended problem that has the students sitting at the station really grappling with each others ideas, and then an open class discussion for a wrap up on what everybody discovered. Another cool addition to that would be to have problems with new concepts worked out on these stations, and have the students try to make sense of it themselves and teach themselves and each other.
Another activity that I came across was her Draw It game. In this game students are racing to answer the questions projected on the board in their given space. I was watching the video and noticed that there were two girls racing to draw and label the area of a parallelogram. By the time the one girl got it right, the other one hadn’t even finished drawing a parallelogram. How do we know that she knows what that is? How can we help her to better understand? Was it just time pressure that messed her up? The problem was never addressed, because the other girl had put the right answer up on the board. Point for that team, next contestants, next question, done. Perhaps this would be a good activity to use for preparation for a review class so that you have an idea of what students need to work on, but I’m a little concerned as to how and what would happen to the students who go up there for their turn and have no clue how to answer the questions.
I also read a lot about quizzes and tests and summative assessments and I want my classroom to be drowning in formative assessment. I want my students to stop caring about collecting marks and I want to ease them into the world of learning for what it is. I think that classroom time shouldn’t be spent drilling students. Nor should I be assigning them 30 questions on one concept out of the textbook. I want them to embrace the struggle that is playing with mathematics in my classroom. I would be more than happy to provide them with some extra questions if they feel that they need to brush up on the procedural before jumping into a rich problem, but I think that needs to be their call. I want to teach them problem solving, not step memorization.