Do you know those ideas you see online that sound really, really good, but you never seem to get around to trying them out in your classroom? Yesterday, I tried one of those out. I Have...Who Has? You know, the deck of cards where each card answers a previous card, and it makes a giant circle around the classroom if nobody messes up.

My Algebra 1 students are currently working on translating algebraic expressions and equations. This is generally something I start the year off with, but I was super keen to start this year off with functions and graphing. As a result, this topic got pushed back to the end of the year.

With snow days, should-have-been snow days, should-have-been school days, and days where half the school is gone to the basketball tournament, it seems like I've been having trouble making much progress with my students these past couple of weeks. Due to the basketball tournament, I was only able to teach my morning classes yesterday. These kids, knowing that they wouldn't be in school that afternoon, were not exactly in a mood to take notes and start a new topic. I wasn't about to waste a perfectly good morning for instruction, though.

Normally, I would try to fit all my notes for this topic into one fifty minute class period. Instead, I decided to do half the notes and a practice activity that would get the kids thinking and working with hopefully minimal complaining. I wish I could tell you that the I Have - Who Has? cards fit this bill perfectly.

For my first hour, they did exactly that. Only a few kids had experience with this practice structure. And, they were really gung ho about the activity from the start. There was some initial confusion because they couldn't figure out why the answers on the cards did not match up. They didn't realize that another student would have the answer to their question. Once they realized this, it seemed to go really smoothly. With this class, I have a number of kids who have not been successful at math before that seem to be almost impossible to engage. These students will take notes, but any time we are doing practice problems, they are more often than not seen drawing funny pictures on their dry erase board or telling a joke to a neighbor. Threatening that they will have to take this class again if they fail doesn't exactly work on students who are already taking Algebra 1 for the 2nd time.

There's something completely different about this activity than my typical practice structure of solving the problems on individual white boards. The success of the activity depends on every single student participating. Any time there would be a pause in the activity, students would start checking their neighbors cards to see if they had the correct answer. Students had to be engaged. Students had to be participating. Students had to be paying attention. I don't think I've ever seen my first hour as engaged in a practice activity as they were for I Have...Who Has?

After finishing the deck, they begged to play again. Students begging to do math. Yeah, I could get used to doing this! Students were asking if we could do this for other topics because it really helped them. They decided this would be the perfect way to review for the EOI.

So, as I began 3rd hour (my next Algebra 1 class), I was floating on cloud nine. I had this amazing, engaging, proven-to-work activity to try with my students. They hated it. Hated it. I'm thinking it has a lot to do with the make up of the class. This class is full of much more self-motivated learners. Most of these students want to do well. They want to succeed. And, to them, this game was silly. It was boring. It was pointless. I know this because there was a running commentary throughout the activity of just how stupid this was. I guess you can't win them all... It still did the job and got some practice done. And, honestly, this group of kids would likely have complained about any activity I had tried to get them to do.

The deck of I Have...Who Has? cards that I printed off the internet was way too simple for my students. It didn't have many variations of words that could mean the different operations. If I were to do this again, I would probably make my own deck that better reflected the words I needed my students to be able to understand. Now that I know the activity is worthwhile, I will definitely be making my own custom decks in the future. I'm kinda glad that the first time I did this activity featured a pretty simple deck, though, because it meant we could focus on exactly how the practice structure worked instead of getting caught up with how to solve more complex problems at the same time.

The deck I used can be downloaded for free from: http://www.mathwire.com/whohas/whalgA.pdf

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On Monday, I used the exact same deck of I Have Who Has? cards from Mathwire with my sixth grade classes who are just starting to work on writing algebraic expressions. I love the fact that this deck has very simple algebraic expressions and especially lots of practice with "Less Than" which can be very problematic for students. One very noticeable expression missing from this deck is quotients and of course they only use the words "times" for multiplication instead of product. Last year I had my students make their own deck of cards with more difficult translations of algebraic expressions and some clues for combining like terms, like "Who has 3x + 2x?" "I Have 5x". They loved the activity, but they struggled to write all the cards correctly so that they would loop back to the first card. I want to have my students make cards again this year so I made a template to help them.

ReplyDeleteTemplate

Awesome idea! Thanks so much for sharing!

DeleteJust read your story on Facebook. I would love to be in your class. Do you have any "seniors" who use walkers? Keep up the good work.

DeleteHaving read this I thought it was really enlightening.

ReplyDeleteI appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together.

I once again find myself personally spending a significant

amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

I found you via NPR and forwarded the article about you and the link to your blog to a young college student I know who is going to be a high school math teacher when she graduates. I wish my own 7th grade math teacher would have had an ounce of your creativity and passion instead of being mean. Maybe I wouldn't have been so afraid of math as an adult! You are an inspiration!

ReplyDeleteHi Jen! Thanks for forwarding the article to a future teacher! I started reading math teacher blogs when I was still in high school. I continued reading them through college, and I believe that has made a real difference in my teaching success.

DeleteThanks for your kind, kind words!

I found you via NPR and am so inspired. I work as a middle school math teaching associate at a tiny school for kids with learning disabilities. We use composition books but they are nothing compared to the awesomeness that you are creating. Thank you for documenting and sharing your work!

ReplyDeleteThank you for being such a passionate teacher! Those kids are lucky to have you!

ReplyDeleteI saw your story on NPR. I am at a crux in my career path, and your story has me thinking about becoming a teacher to fill our schools with educators like you.

ReplyDeleteDear "thinking about it"...

DeleteI am graduating from OSU in 2 months because 6 years ago, I decided I was tired of tutoring my friends and neighbors' kids who described math teachers as unloving, mean, unwilling to help etc.

Be the change you wish to see in education. I'll be creating a fun, creative math classroom by July. And I. Can't. Wait.

Hey Viktoria! This blog has inspired me as well. Perhaps we can help and motivate each other during the school year. My email is shalandaleigh@yahoo.com if you would like to be virtual teaching buddies.

DeleteListened to the NPR story. Thank you so much for taking your creativity into the classroom. We need more teachers like you.

ReplyDeleteThank you Mike!

DeleteDriveway moment with NPR again, thanks to you and your story. I was so taken by your attitude, your excitement about teaching and your care and concern for your students. When I heard the part about the students making their own text books, it brought tears to my eyes because I realized how passionate you are about your students learning.math. It brought to mind all the wonderful teachers our 4 kids had, both in K-12 but also in college.

ReplyDeleteYou are an inspiration to all teachers and all parents who value a good education, who look for ways to communicate with their kids. I hope your school board realizes the gift they have in your hiring and would suggest they hire (and pay you extra) to conduct seminars for teachers throughout your county and beyond.

Your story on NPR was very inspiring...and I just love how your passion is able to touch individuals you interact with on a daily basis...You inspire me as a future teacher and the things to look forward too...I know it's not going to be glamorous...but you get it...the whole point of teaching..I like that!

ReplyDeleteThank you for being an engaging math teacher! I also came here because I heard your story on NPR today. I can tell your page views must be exploding. I just want to let you know as a parent of 2 older kids, how I wish you were their teacher! (Ivy R. from Mesa, AZ)

ReplyDeleteHaving read this I thought it was really enlightening.

ReplyDeleteI appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together.

I once again find myself personally spending a significant

amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

I'm here via the NPR piece. As a lapsed math teacher, and mother of a girl who keeps saying that she is no good at math (due to poor teaching, I think, she loves and does well in math projects we do at home), I have to say I love your work. Please keep it up. I will direct all the math teachers I know to your blog.

ReplyDeleteWow! Wow! Wow! I'm glad you went into the field of teaching. Math no less. I love that you try to engage all of your students, and at different levels. Keep up the passion. You get it. It's not easy. I'm also glad that NPR news did a great story on you. That's what life is all about. Learning, teaching and giving back. It's also very lonely at the top, so I hope you have great support from friends and family. Keep up the good fight. Don't burn out!!

ReplyDeleteI played I have, who has with my German students today! Of course, I always have to make up my own cards so they match our current vocabulary, but once you have a template made, it goes pretty quickly. I time my classes and then they compete against the other periods, so that adds another element of competition and encourages the class to think of themselves as a team. Great interview yesterday on NPR!

ReplyDeleteInteresting idea. It seems like it will take a while to create your own, but you could have the students create them too. I like the idea of competition between classes.

DeleteMatt Mace

Oooooh - I love the idea of having the students create the decks. Thanks, Matt!

DeleteInteresting that two different classes reacted so differntly to the same activity. Funny how the makeup can change things like that. I have also found several loop games on this site. http://www.pleacher.com/mp/mpframe.html

ReplyDeleteFREAKED out when I saw you on NPR! Congrats! You 100% deserve it! You have always been such an inspirational and passionate teacher. Your students and school are lucky to have you. Since I found your blog (you were student teaching?), I have come back time and again to see the cool things that you are doing!

ReplyDeleteKate

To The Square Inch

Saw your story on NPR and I'm very inspired by your creativity and dedication. Your enthusiasm is infectious :-) Love your interactive notebooks!

ReplyDelete/former high school teacher, now homeschooling parent

Thanks for sharing your experience. I've stopped using I have...who has because I've found my students will tune out as soon as their card is used. Did you find this problem in your class, too?

ReplyDeleteI've only used it once, and my classes are so small that all the students had 2-3 cards. But, I can definitely see this being a problem!

DeleteMy ten-year-old and I listened to the NPR piece together, then visited your blog last night. He immediately insisted that we needed to send links to both so his math teacher can see it. He threw in his science teacher, too, just for good measure. ;) So the ripple effect of your work is spreading far, both geographically and age-wise!

ReplyDeleteI'm your newest follower. Your story on NPR was very inspiring! Your ideas have given me new inspiration for next year. Keep up the great work!

ReplyDeleteI tried this with my 8th grade Algebra class this week. They needed more practice solving simple quadratics. It took about 30 minutes to get through 18 cards, but they stuck with it! When a card was used up, students partnered up or just kept solving on their own (I thought about having them turn in their page of work). It also took me awhile to make the cards, but now they are good to go for next year! I'll probably do this again when we multiply polynomials. Our curriculum emphasizes application over skill drill, so often I'm looking for some repetition without a worksheet of 20 of the same problem, and this fits the bill perfectly!

ReplyDeleteThanks for the reminder of this fun chain technique!

Saw your article on NPR! Loved what I read -- I am currently doing similar things in tutoring & in my classes but at the elementary level. It's reassuring to see it can be successful inside the classroom :)

ReplyDeleteThanks for clicking through to my blog through the NPR article! I love that how we teach isn't constrained by the ages we teach. The most important thing is the passion we bring to our teaching.

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