Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ring Around the Practice Problem


In physics we often have the daunting task of going over practice problems. As one esteemed colleague of mine is fond of saying for many of these kids, they think "Math was created to torture them." (Bruecken, 2012...;) There may be some truth to that.

I am going to toss this out to you as a way to take the tedium out of going over these problems and keep kids engaged.

  • I start by asking them to pair up with the person next to them. Then one of the partners raises their hand. I tell them that they are going to be given a problem to solve with their partner. After a given amount of time (1-3 minutes depending on the problem) I tell them to switch. 
  • The partner that raised his/her hand then moves around the room to the next group (like volleyball's 'rotate'). I try to time it so that they have discussed the problem and how they would solve it but may not be done. 
  • Thus they take their knowledge to the next partner and finish the problem. They compare what they did with the last person to this new partner. Once they come to a consensus on an answer, we go over it (or I have them whiteboard it). 
  • I then give them another problem and we rotate again halfway through it. 


This is just a quick way to take the tedium out of going over the problems. Most of the time they don't want to look like an idiot when the rotate happens so they pay attention. I like how they have to explain the problem to their new partner by showing their work.

Give it a try and let me know if it works. Any suggestions?