For the next eight weeks I am participating in Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere, a project designed to help math teachers meet others in the cyber community we call home. (It is still a good time to join in, if you haven’t yet.)
Mission 1 is to write about what makes my classroom my very own. One thing I prize and make sure I develop in my students is their ability to communicate with each other about their math. I have been doing more and more discussion-based activities in lessons. I want them to talk about their conjectures and developing ideas. It is rare that my students are sitting in silence. They are usually discussing with the person next to them. Often they are moving around the room, talking to others. Even when we are doing “boring” practice questions they are talking.
Here two grade 12 students are discussing probability statements that may be never true, sometimes true, or always true. They had to go meet as many others as they can, discussing the statements on their cards, and each time trading cards. Then they go off and meet another person. (This is a quiz-quiz-trade activity.)
To help students communicate with each other, I have mini whiteboards (MWBs) and pens on each group of tables. Students love using them because they can quickly explain their thinking. They feel more free to make mistakes on the MWBs and to help and comment on each other’s work. Since having them always available, I have noticed a big increase in how much students help each other and talk about their thinking.
With the MWBs it is also easy to share the thinking of one or two students with the rest of the class. In another probability lesson, I asked students to visualize and then draw what they thought a certain probability distribution would look like. Then I brought six of the MWBs up to the front to discuss with the class their common and distinctive features. In the end, our discussion focused on just two of the graphs made by students.
All this constant discussion helps my students clarify and solidify their developing ideas. This makes my classroom unmistakably mine.
What makes your classroom unique?