Some times lessons go really well. Sometimes they totally flop. Today, I had both of those happen in Algebra 2. Now, they did happen in different class periods.

Yesterday, we did a fast and furious review of fraction operations. I usually do this write before we jump into rational functions, but I'm including a review unit this year. And, I decided to put it there. This is our last review topic of the year before jumping straight into the nitty gritty of Algebra 2. The point of the review unit is to get all my students on the same page and to get them used to my SBG system before we start learning new material.

Two years ago, I did a normal distribution activity with my stats kiddos. I decided I loved the practice structure, and I wanted to modify it for my algebra classes. The idea is that you have cards. One side has a question. The other side has the answer to another question. Students put all the answer cards facing up. Turn over one card. Solve this problem on your dry erase board. Find the answer card. Flip it over. This is your new question. Keep repeating until the cards make a loop.

Last year, I made a set of quadratic formula cards to do with this activity on the day NPR visited my classroom. I hand wrote them, so there really wasn't any resource to blog for them. Since then, I'd sort of forgotten about this activity. I like it because kids are working in groups. I like it because it's self-checking. If they don't get an answer that's on one of the cards, they have to work together to figure out their error. I like that I can circulate and help the groups that need it the most. The room gets a little loud, but it's almost all math talk. I love hearing kids explain their thinking to their tablemates. And, I love hearing them ask each other clarifying questions. It's also the perfect activity to use my red, yellow, and green cups with.

Today, I wanted to give them some fraction practice questions for half of the period and then let them work on correcting Not Yet quizzes for the second half of the period.

I left work yesterday not really knowing how I wanted to structure this practice. Last night, I decided to do one of these card activities that I saw called a "Question Stack" somewhere. I have first hour plan, so I made up some questions and typed up the cards in a hurry this morning.

Silly me wasn't thinking about how things work when you print them double-sided. And, silly me didn't test out the cards before printing them out on card stock and giving them to the class. This meant the answers were on the back of some of the question cards. Oops...

When the activity didn't work as I'd promised, their interest quickly dropped. They worked a bit, but I considered the lesson to be a flop. At lunch, I looked at the cards and realized I needed to switch my two columns of answers for them to print correctly.

My second Algebra 2 class got theirs printed on boring, plain copy paper. But, they worked perfectly. I had to go around to each group individually and re-explain how the practice structure worked. But, they loved being able to check their work themselves and only ask for help when their entire group was confused. This is the most math I've ever heard these students talk.

The kids told me that they really liked doing questions like this and asked if we could do this more often. YES! It's been so fun to see some of these kids "get" fractions for the first time in their lives. One student said I was officially his favorite math teacher ever because no one had ever been able to explain fractions to him before.

Download the Question Stack file here to try this activity out with your kids. And, yes, this is the updated version that actually works. :)

Do you give the stacks to small groups of kids? Do all students have to agree on an answer to move on? Sounds like a great activity. Thanks for all the great ideas!

ReplyDeleteGroups get the bag of cards. They lay them out and form the stack as they work through the problems. They do have to agree before moving on. I saw my students coaching the struggling students before moving on. It was awesome to watch!

DeleteThis has happened to me more than once, too!

ReplyDeleteI love self-checking activities that allow students to work at their own pace. Have to see if I can adapt it for German...

If there are unique answers, I could definitely see this working! Kids love the self-checking aspect of it. I do, too!

DeleteI'm curious. How *do* you explain fractions to your students?

ReplyDeleteThanks for the motivation to do a post about this: http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2015/09/fraction-review-foldable.html

DeleteYes, I too would like to know how you explain fractions so that it is understood so well.

ReplyDeleteI just did a post about this: http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2015/09/fraction-review-foldable.html

DeleteI used this in a college class today, and it went over really well! The interesting thing is that I had one class with ~24 students working in groups of 3-4, and another class of 9, working in groups of 2-3. The smaller class was much slower at the exercise, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the group size. How long does it take your students to work out the 10 problems?

ReplyDeleteMy students took about 30 minutes to work through the 10 problems. They kept stopping to reteach certain concepts to group mates before moving on, so it took longer than i expected. But, it was worth it!

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