Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ask different questions

Rather than assess whether my students can do matrix multiplication by having them multiply matrices without a calculator, I decided to ask a different question. After all, the point is about understanding and not computation, right? So, instead of giving them a non-calculator section on their quiz, I changed the question:

Given that
\left[  \begin{array} {cc}  5 & 2\\  7 & 3\end{array}  \right]  \left[  \begin{array} {cc}  1 & -4\\  -6 & 9\end{array}  \right]=  \left[  \begin{array} {cc}  -7 & -2\\  -11 & -1\end{array}  \right]

explain the calculation that gives the entry in the first row, second column of the product matrix.

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Round Robin Review

I’ve used whiteboards for math instruction for many years now, but the other day I learned something new on Kelly O’Shea’s blog post about whiteboard speed dating. Really cool idea. So, I’ve been thinking about how I can implement that idea in my classroom which, at times, has as many as 25 students in it. I don’t have the space to have 12 or 13 pairs of students (even my smaller classes would need 10 pairs). I also noticed Kelly’s comment about one group erasing what another had put on the board and just starting over because they couldn’t understand what the previous group had done. So this really got me thinking. My modification of whiteboard speed dating became the round robin review.

I had my students partner up creating 7 groups of two and one group of three. I used four review problems about creating and solving systems of equations that I modified from our text. Each of the four problems was given initially to two groups. They were given some time to begin solving the problem on chart paper. Then, after about ten minutes, we swapped the chart papers. This gave each group a new problem to make sense of and another group’s work to review, correct, or continue. Then we swapped once more. Finally, each group got their original paper back. The two groups with the same original problem teamed up to compare their final results, discuss any issues, corrections, or comments that were made.

When we had finished the entire process I asked my students how it worked for them. The responses were generally positive. They appreciated the opportunity to review in a different way. One student said that “it really helped trying to look for mistakes made by others because that would help her know what to look for in her own work.” Another student said that “it made him focus on communication.”

My observations and thoughts

I had one group doing all the work in the first round on notebook paper – and they were working individually – so they ended up with nothing on the chart paper. So, the empty chart paper with the other notes was passed onto the next group, who started solving from the beginning. I need to keep working on getting them past that idea that chart paper is for final drafts only – although I tried to make clear at the beginning that the chart paper was for doing the work. It was not something that was going to be framed and hung on the wall. They do seem to understand this with whiteboards.

I had a couple of groups “review” worked that clearly had mistakes in it, but made no comments or corrections. This indicates that these students are not invested in others’ work the way they are in their own. How do I change that thinking? Maybe that’s where Kelly’s mixing of the teams comes in. I’ll have to give those logistics more thought. How do I arrange the tables in my classroom to accommodate the complicated dance involving eighteen students?

I’m definitely going to try this again.

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