Back in February I was able to attend Math In Action (see post here) and in one of the sessions I attended I learned about the use of Task Cards in math class. The basic idea is that you make cards with different math problems of varying difficulty. Each student then gets a card to become an expert on. The great thing about this is you can give students cards based on their ability with the content and what they will feel most comfortable explaining to others without anyone knowing the differences. Here’s a copy of the task cards that I used as a review of the measurement unit we had just completed.
For each card students do their work on this grid and then their partner for that cards checks it and initials the smaller box if it is correct or helps them to figure out what they did wrong. And then they move on solving the rest of the cards that their peers have. Now on to what we did.
We switched up the way that I had learned about it at MIA a decided to do a “speed dating” session in order to provide some more structure for our students as this was the first time we had tried anything like this. We lined the desks up in two rows with the desks facing each other. I gave each student a card and told them that this was going to be their card that they needed to know how to explain to a classmate if the classmate got the question wrong. We explained that we would give them a time limit, we started with 2 minutes, 1 for solving the problem and 1 for talking about the solutions. We had to extend this time a little bit as we kept going. After that two minutes one of the rows of students were to move to the next seat over and we would start over again.
If you really want to get into the speed dating theme like my CT did you can add the candles on the desk, turn off the lights, and Google some elevator music in the background. Fair warning on this 7th graders will laugh every time you say speed dating or say you should only be talking to your “date”. They did feel awkward when two boys were across from each other but all that fades away rather quickly and our students worked remarkably well.
That being said I learned a lot from doing this the first time. First I didn’t plan well for the time it would take to set up the room and explain what they were supposed to be doing and have them actually get it. We spent close to 20 minutes going over how this would work before students were confident enough to start on their own. It was all worth it in the end when they got to work but its something that really needs to be taken into consideration.
Another idea we talked about doing was making two sets of the same 15 cards so that the class could be divided in half and everyone is still doing the same questions. This would have been beneficial in our case because we didn’t have enough time for each student to get through all the cards. I think this could save a lot of time because students are answering 15 questions instead of 30.
Overall I was really pleased with how this activity worked. Once students got the hang of what they were doing they were on task for at least a solid 25 minutes and even seemed a little disappointed when we had to stop before they had gotten to all the cards. I even had students ask the next day if we were going to be able to finish them. The next time I do this I’m going to definitely have to plan for the startup time better and I think I will go with the two sets of the same 15 cards to make sure students are getting the most out of the cards.