A few months ago, I did a "Problem Master" activity with my Algebra I class focusing on probability. They handled the activity really well and wanted to do it again. I threw together this activity last night in one of those I-hate-tomorrow's-lesson-plan-and-need-something-that-will-work moments. Our schedule has been modified for the past two weeks due to state testing, so the kids are unsettled and this got them moving around and talking in a productive way.
The steps are simple:
- Each student gets a different problem to solve
- The teacher checks the problems and coaches as needed. I tend to complete this during the warm-up time we have but longer more involved problems could be completed the day prior to the activity and checked outside of class.
- Students pair off, solve each other's problems, and check to make sure they are right. They continue to pair off until they've paired off with everyone OR a set number of partners OR time is called. (I prefer the time method because some students will take longer than others and you can end up with a bottleneck at the end if 4 people just need to work with Mary to have finished.)
- Arrange furniture in twos if at all possible to facilitate pairing.
- Write or print each problem and its corresponding number on a card. Students can trade these cards when they partner off. Long problems (word problems in particular) or problems with diagrams can be typed up several to a sheet. The Problem Master would have a class set of small slips of paper with his question to pass out to partners who would glue them into books. It sounds complicated, but my kids managed just fine with the probability questions done this way. Just remind students to only cut one question off each time they meet a new partner so you don't have confetti all over the room!
- Designate a "waiting room" where students look for new partners. No one may stay there when they find partners. Depending on the length of the problem that your students are asked to solve, you may need a filler activity (24 cards, etc) in this space for kids who need to wait longer than a few seconds before a new partner is available. This is also a great place for you to check in with kids on any questions they're having.
- Either create a worksheet with areas for each problem ahead of time or instruct students how to number their papers prior to starting. This helps them to keep track of which problems they haven't completed yet. For today's activity, we stapled three sheets of graph paper together, numbered from 1-19 (one question per student present), and just copied the questions onto the answer packet since they were short equations.
- Differentiate problems where needed. I give my strongest coaches and "explainers" the hardest problems because I know they will give their classmates a good push towards getting the questions right.