Research shows that students learn best when they are collaborating and talking about math. My 25+ years in the classroom tells me that this is, indeed, true–but I’ll go a step farther and make the claim that math discourse can raise the level of engagement, motivation, and excitement as well. I thought I’d share some details about some recent area and perimeter work in my classroom to see if I can show you what I mean. The resources used in these photos are my Area and Perimeter Activities and my Area and Perimeter Task Cards.
One of the first area and perimeter tasks I do is in pairs as I want to set the stage for a couple of things. One, during this unit we work almost ENTIRELY collaboratively. Two, I want students to realize the power of having a second set of eyes! We worked hard on this challenge and I gave each partner a different task–one was in charge of “building” the rectangles and one was in charge of recording. I pulled my “recording” group to help them become experts on the difference between inches and square inches and told them they were responsible for making sure that correct language was used throughout the lesson. I pulled the “builders” to tell them that their job was to ASK their partner for suggestions and to then follow through. It was a ton of fun to walk around and eavesdrop as they worked to fulfill their jobs!
The Challenge of Working in Larger Groups
Restating Directions to Improve Focus
Meeting Different Learning Styles
This project is one of my favorites. Much of the work I do with area and perimeter is very “hands on”, but this one, in particular, requires students to “build” rectangles–and then to create an artistic representation. Students who “see” math differently often are very successful at this–and the fact that they “build” rectangles by measuring side length and then assembling the rectangle really helps with cementing that concept of perimeter.
I also love how much dialogue happens among students…from giving feedback on solving the math challenge and clarifying the directions, to helping with the physical formation of the rectangles. It is definitely a collaborative effort–and I love watching how engaged they are. It really frees me up to TEACH and coach when they are so actively engaged in the math.