Adventures of a New Teacher – Day 5

Day 5 and the first Monday of the school year is complete!

After looking over a few activities from last week over the weekend I noticed that many of my students struggled with a solid understanding of the order of operations. What I saw most students doing was moving left to right across their expression, which would give them the number they wanted but wasn’t mathematically correct. After searching around I found this activity. I really liked it because it would not only focus on the order of operations but would force some critical thinking skills to be used.

We started out the day reviewing what I was talking about when I said order of operations and how to actually use them. We we got started I gave them the first number from the suggestions and everyone got it rather quickly and I thought we were on to something great! I then went on to what I would consider to be the next difficulty level and it did not go over well. I had one group that got it in a few minutes. I let everyone else keep working but I started losing them. I had the one group that got share their solution but we moved back to the “level 1” numbers. It was after this that I started to see some surprising answers. I told students right away that the numbers that we were trying build wouldn’t require any exponents or parenthesis. As I was checking there were some groups that had used them anyway to get the correct answer, which was awesome! I want this out of the box thinking and the idea of using different approaches to be a huge part of my teaching.

The second hour of my day I did pretty much the same thing except I ran through the problems in order as a way to try to work students up to more difficult ones. They did really well with it and I again had some people surprise me with their use of exponents that I don’t even know if it would have been one of my initial ideas.

As we continue to work through these small groups activities I am beginning to notice that some of my students start to shut down when they don’t get the correct answer right away. I have really tried to promote the idea that a productive struggle is a good thing and failure is awesome as long as you learn from it. One thing I have started to do with groups that I think is helping after they have multiple wrong attempts, is to look at their last attempt and talk with them to show them how they could learn from it. I also have noticed that with some of my students they start of strong with their work but as the hour goes on it starts to go downhill fast. As this week and the school year goes on that is going to one of my big focuses so if anyone has any ideas to help with it I would gladly take them!

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