Math Mondays: Report Card on 5 New Techniques

My students spend time at the end of the year reflecting on the past year as well as looking forward. I also like to reflect, because after many years of just surviving, I finally have time to look back, evaluate and learn so that the next year I can improve upon previous years.  

This year was filled with "new."  I took on an integrated math class that merged Algebra 2, Geometry and Statistics.  I tackled Pre-Calculus.  And I tried out several new types of resources to continue to run my classes in a self-paced, mastery learning program.  Here's what I discovered:

Digital task cards (B+):  I don't use traditional task cards often, but the digital ones have been a good fit.  I like that I can customize them and they are easy to assess.  I haven't quite figured out how to have students show their work better without it being cumbersome, so while I will use them again next year, I will continue to use them sparingly.

Digital detectives (A): The digital version of the popular math detective activity has been a huge hit.  
My students love learning about places all over the world as they follow clues to solve the mystery.  I like that I can differentiate, that they are easy to assign to students, and easy to assess.  I will definitely continue to mix the digital math detective with paper and pencil math detectives next year.

Color Coded Interactive Notebooks (A):   My visual learners truly appreciated the addition of colored notes to interactive notebooks.  When we got to topics with many steps or parts such as conic sections or polynomial long division, many students benefited from seeing and writing each step in different colors.  These take me more time to create, which is a downside.  Students are often disappointed when they get my "old" notebook organizers which I haven't yet had time to change to color.  Students remark think they are beneficial, so it will be worth the time to convert old notebooks.

Integrating videos for concepts (C):  So, this year I tried to take advantage of the wealth of free videos on various topics in my classes.  Videos, I thought, would be great for differentiation because students could watch videos whenever they got to the next topic.  I found that the majority of my students just spaced out and gathered much less knowledge and understanding than when we talked about concepts together or even when I provided written notes.  I also spent WAY WAY too much time looking for top quality videos.  I am not sure how much I will use video next year if at all, but I am glad I tried something new.  

Even MORE variety (A-):  I tend to get excited when students are engaged by an activity, and then I can get in a rut of let's do that for this topic and the next topic and the next topic and... What I was reminded of with moans and groans as that no matter how good an activity is, variety is absolutely necessary, and the more variety the better.  We simply cannot just do notes, math detective, paper chain, assessment, repeat all year long.  As students move through units and from unit to unit, variety became exceedingly important.  I found that when I upped my game so to speak with a variety of activities and projects that I could keep students engaged (at least most of them).  I try not to repeat any one type of activity within a unit and repeat it no more than twice within 3 units.  In this way by the time we get to the third unit, students are somewhat ready for a second math quest or coded message.

Now, it's time to wait for the report card from my students when they create their Survivor's Guides.  I am confident they will reveal even more that I can use to build on next year.

Math Mondays is a bi-weekly blog post (2nd and 4th Monday of each month) sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include, you can leave me a message in the comments section below or at the store in the question and answer section.



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