Sunday, September 18, 2016

Adventures in Speed-Math-ing

I discovered task cards a few years ago. I was amazed at their effectiveness. Students who will shut down (understandably) at a worksheet of 20 problems will happily get a comparable amount of practice working one problem at a time, particularly if they can work with a partner and check their answers as they go (hurray for QR codes!).

I've used task cards in a few ways, including scoots (not my favorite) and through the app Classkick, but I've wanted to try Speed-Dating Math-ing for at least a year. I was just never sure how to make it work for ME.

I read this blog post that made the most sense to me, and I finally took the plunge (disclaimer: Randi explains the process much better than I do, so please read her post!).

I tried speed-math-ing with my Pre-Algebra kids first. My two collaborative, inclusion Pre-Algebra classes are small, so I set up two sets of 8 desks in the room. One reason I decided on two sets was to allow for a bit of differentiation; students in these classes work at vastly different speeds, and splitting them up would allow students to work at a pace comfortable for them.

A couple of days after Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 did the same activity with the same cards.

I started with a brief, probably inaccurate, description of speed-dating and added that we were were calling it speed-MATH-ing. I also noted we were not emphasizing speed.

I gave each student a card and told them they were to become the expert on that card. Each student checked their answer with me (these cards didn't have QR codes). I told them to make sure they could explain how to work that problem (we were simplifying expressions) to another student.

After each student assured me they understood their card, they traded with the person sitting across from them. They were given a bit of time to work their partner's card.

They checked their answers with their partner.

If they missed the problem, their partner was to explain how to get the correct answer to them. At first, students wanted to depend on me to check their answers or explain how to work the problems correctly, but they quickly figured out how to depend on a card's "expert."

We had an odd number of students, so my partner teacher became a student partner.
 When everyone could work their partner's problem, they got their card back, and one side of partners moved seats.

After everyone had partnered with everyone in their set of 4, a row from each set traded places.

The activity was a success. Students said they enjoyed it. They liked changing partners frequently. I think being the "expert" on one card and knowing their partner was an "expert" on the card they were working on boosted confidence. The activity was no-risk.

There were a couple of small issues I would still like to work out. Timing was still an issue with my Pre-Algebra classes, even though I tried to accommodate for it. Splitting the classes into two sets meant some students never partnered with each other.

I'd like to be able to arrange the room into one large row of desks, but I'm not sure I have room for that. I might make a U with the desks next time?

I'm thrilled I finally got to try speed-math-ing. I will definitely use it again with a couple of modifications.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The In-Class Flip and the Magic

Since flipping my Algebra 1 classes two years ago, I have tried to figure out how to successfully flip my Pre-Algebra classes.

My Pre-Algebra kids are different from my "pre-AP" Algebra 1 kids. Less confident, less motivated, many of them trying to be successful despite learning disabilities and obstacles at home.

I decided early on that watching videos at home would not work for my Pre-Algebra kids. I tend to not give these kids homework, anyway. And if a large percentage of them enter class having not watched a video (usually only 1 or 2, if any, of my Algebra 1 kids don't watch a video), it would make each day's class difficult and stressful...for them AND me.

So I've been contemplating an in-class flip with them for over a year, but I wasn't sure how to organize it. Some in-class flippers use stations, but I wasn't sure how that would look for me.

I did a few in-class videos with last year's Pre-Algebra group, but I started late in the first semester. After the pretty successful "flipped review," I no longer made any videos for Pre-Algebra second semester. I'm not exactly sure why I didn't; it just didn't seem to click with that group, or I had too many other things going on, or all of the above.

I changed my order of topics this year (again, LOL), and we started with equations, which is the content for which I made videos last year. So...let's use those videos this year! Kids were exposed to flipped lessons starting around the third week of school. We discussed how to watch/interact/engage with an educational video.

The kids took to the flipped process right away. Many talked about how they liked the videos over a "normal" lesson. One young man said, "I like the videos; they sort of force you to pay attention."

I'm not ready for a completely asynchronous classroom - I like group and class activities too much - but flipped days have become self-paced days. I give the students what they need to accomplish for the day, which normally includes a video and some practice. Students like that they can watch the lesson at their own pace. They are getting better at asking questions at any point in the video where they are confused. After finishing the video, they have something to immediately begin working on. My partner teacher and I get to work with lots of students one-on-one as they practice.

We flip a couple of days a week, and then the rest of the time we get to do the collaborative activities. We've done speed-math-ing (blog post coming), bingo, scavenger hunts. Students have worked together while doing otherwise-boring skill practice, helping each other, talking math, finding success.

And the magic is happening.

I would say this group has a better understanding of solving equations than almost any of my previous Pre-Algebra groups. Sure, they're making they typical sign errors, but they KNOW the process.

They're talking math. To me. To each other.

Their confidence is high. I have put a couple of equations in front of them, telling them to wait and let us work them together, and I am met with a chorus of, "That looks easy! We can solve that! Let us try it first!" They are often finding and correcting their own errors.

I think a few parents and students are using the videos at home.

Make-up work has become MUCH easier.

I am seeing GROWTH in students. Students who could not solve a two-step equation two weeks ago are finding success with many multi-step equations. Their work looks beautiful (gushing math teacher here). I am seeing beautiful smiles as I praise effort and progress.

I can't claim that the in-class flip has made all the difference. These students have been working with common-core based standards, deeper thinking, and collaborative work for several years, and each year I can tell a positive difference in the mathematical abilities of my students.

But I think the in-class flip is another piece of the puzzle I have been searching for to help grow my developing mathematicians.