Math teachers: Do you ever use group work? My math class has always been lecture/solving problems with me at the board. I feel badly about this because I know that that can get boring after a while. However, I have never seen math taught differently. Do you think it's a good idea to use group work once in a while to make class more interesting? For example, having a challenge problem or proof that they work together in groups to solve? Or would that just waste class time? I'm just tired of all of the bored faces I see in my class, so I want to make things a little bit more interesting. I know in other subjects, there are so many activities that can be used. In math, I'm just not sure... During my duty period, I'm in the library monitoring students. I often hear kids working on math problems together and they always seem to get excited about the problems when they're discussing how to solve them. I would love to see this excitement and interest in my classes. I'm thinking about this more for next year, not this year.

I only do it twice a year, when I have 2 particular worksheets. I give them a whole class period to do them, and to finish as homework. I tell them I want a consensus on the answers tomorrow, and that the class answers will count as a quiz. I know it doesn't work for everyone here, but my class is very teacher centered.

I had to do group work a lot with specified roles at a former job. I made up my own roles that fit with math - formula finder, fact checker, calculator operator, etc. I liked it sometimes, not so much others. It really depends on the particular group of kids in each class. Unfortunately I had to do the exact same thing in each class every day.

In 7th grade, we had different groups every week for the Problem of the Week. We worked together to give our best shot at solving a tricky math problem and presented our (attempted) solutions on Friday. You could incorporate a less frequent version of that activity to get kids working together.

Where I work it is frowned upon if we lecture. I am not sure why this is. They base their entire philosophy around group work. We use Teacher's College in our school. Every school is different though.

My main concern would be not getting through the material, which obviously takes priority. I would need to carefully map out my units for next year to make sure that I have time for groupwork. There are so many things that I'd love to do, but it's hard when I only have 47 minutes a day!

My mentor teacher made it a point to have at least one "partner quiz" each quarter where 2 students would work together. Very often, especially in AP Calc, he would put up a free-response problem on the board (you know, the one that gives a scenario and then has parts A, B, C, D, E, etc.) and have students pair up. Homework checking is completely partner-centered.

How did he make homework checking partner-centered? Just by having kids pair up and move desks together?

I'm elementary, so it's different, but I really like group work. We do centers together and I have started assigning problems to groups. After they are solved we discuss all the different strategies used. I guess Jeopardy and other games are also kind of group work.

Yup. Everyone has an assigned partner. They move their desks together and they compare answers to the ones on the projector. If student A got the question right, but student B got it wrong, student A helps to explain it, and vice versa. If both students got it wrong, they collaborate with another group.

Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't you incorporate partner work/group work into your lecture? Think about the last time you were at a staff meeting at were talked "at" for more than 15 minutes. Not exactly engaging.... I try as much as possible to not lecture for more than five minutes without having the students respond in some way. Often times I will open a new lesson by giving them a problem that bridges what they already know with what I want them to learn, and see how far they get in 2-3 minutes while working with each other. The human brain is much more engaged when it has had a chance to TRY and STRUGGLE.....once it has done so, it is MUCH more receptive to new information. In other words, we need to experience disequilibrium first before we learn. As a teacher, it is hard to let go of control and let them try/struggle/fail even.....but that is the beautiful thing about a classroom and the ability of a skilled teacher that is able to take them from confusion to understanding P.S. My motto in my classroom is "It's OK if you are confused.....it just means you are learning something new!"

I am really into student-centered classrooms, and honestly, they would probably appreciate that. Most of what we do in life includes working with others, so why should the classroom be any different?

When I am teaching the lesson, we do a lot of group/partner work. After I demonstrate a problem, they usually do one with their partner. Then, we move on to them doing them on their own.

Do you think that it's possible to do in high school? There is always a lot of material to cover, so I'm just not sure how much I can fit in. It's already a struggle when it's all lecture.

With the common core, at least for middle school, math seems to be going to more group work and student centered approaches.

When setting up partnership or group activities, make sure it is 'cooperative learning', not 'group work'. Build in the key elements of positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction.

What kind of work are you thinking of? For example, do you think a challenging proof that they need to think about in groups or partners would satisfy your criteria?

Yes. A Thousand TImes Yes I use quite a bit of group work after I have modeled a concept and given them a chance to do guided practice. After I teach something, I have them take out white boards and we solve the problem or whatever as a class as I guide them through the steps. After I do this enough times and see enough partners that are "getting it" they usually break into partners or teams to work on the concept and teach explain to each other. Sometimes they explain it better to each other than I can! It really has to be taught before you send them off to work otherwise they will just chat and get nothing done. My school does a lot of Kagen strategies. Although a lot of teachers avoid Kagen because it does have a lot of "touchy feely" or "cutsie" aspects to it, there are some wonderful strategies that help you to organize effective group work. Look up rally coach and numbered heads together. Both are excellent, don't take too long to teach to the kids, and help students take charge. Rally coach also gives a lot of time for you to circulate and help students who aren't getting it. It's important to have them work independently after the group work though. THey still need to practice on their own. So in short, I am a HUGE believer in collaborative learning when it is done correctly. :thumb:

I just did a Rally Coach search and everything I found was inaccurate and left out the most important element so here it is in a nutshell. The person answering the question does not write anything until their partner tells them it is correct. That is very important. Basically, you give them a set of problems to solve. You and I are partners and I am going to work on the first problem. I need to tell you out loud how I am going to solve it before I write it down. eg. "First I am going to find a common denominator by listing multiples. If I am correct, you praise me (very important) and give me permission to write it. If I am wrong, you coach me. I use the Tip Tip Teach, Re-tell. You would give me a tip....I still get it wrong....you give me another clue....I get it wrong....so you tell me what it is and teach me how to do it.....and them I REPEAT IT BACK TO YOU before I write. For question two, we switch roles. I have them initial each question so I know who was the thinker and who was the coach. Rally coach is AWESOME. Trust me.