Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Class Debates in Math Continued...

So yesterday we had a debate about math totally go off the rails.  Students kept arguing without really basing anything on logic or facts or even good common sense.  It sometimes sounded like a 24 hour news network where people yell "I''m right because I feel I am right!" and then someone else yells "No, I'm Right, because I'M LOUDER!"  Only 1 section had this, but still I couldn't stop thinking about how badly this went.

So today we started number talks.  Number talks are just a format for discussing interesting math questions that stress reasoning and estimation skills.  Fawn Nguyen is the amazing teacher behind this website.  Her blog is awesome of course.

We started with the first question on the site.

"Are there more seconds in a day, or inches in a mile?"

Before we started, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I wasn't sure the students would be engaged, participate in quiet thinking time or be able to explain their thoughts.  I was worried that students wouldn't even know where to start and give up right away.

So I put together this smartnotebook slide to help keep the class focused.

The timer is clearly displayed as well as the steps.  Also the blue box is a random name generator.  I like having the first name displayed because it gives fair warning to that student that they are going to be expected to speak about this question.  (you can also see I type to fast and have a typo in the question!)

So every section today went extremely well!  Students respected the 2 minutes of initial thinking time.  I could see some students racking their brain for an answer, a way to approach the problem, or just an idea.  Some students looked around like "He is crazy if he thinks I can do this in my head!"

The discussion time was the best.  All students were engaged.  I mean 100% engagement.  Students either could not wait to share their ideas or they could not wait to hear someone give them a clue about the answer.  I heard great discussion all day long about this problem and different and fantastic ways to approach it.  

The sharing part was a little rough in most classes, but all reasons for picking a side were grounded in math and common sense.  There were no 24-hour news channel type arguments, just reasonable debate.  

I told them I plan to do a problem like this 1-2 times a week.  Most were excited.  Some groaned.  However when I asked them why they groaned, they almost all responded about "having to think to hard"  That is just what a math teacher loves to hear!

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