Ring in the New Year with Math: Three Resolutions to Try in Your Classroom

In the spirit of Sine of the Times, I decided to start the year off not by cutting out sweets (which, in my opinion, is crazy talk) but instead with some New Year’s math resolutions—quick, instructional suggestions that will, hopefully, add a spark to your classrooms and get your students excited and engaged in their learning.

A student’s ability to reason, analyze, make logical arguments, justify solutions, and listen to others’ arguments is pervasive throughout the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice, so these three resolutions focus on improving student interaction and communications. Try them in your classroom and let me know how they work!

Math Resolution #1: Embrace graffiti in the classroom! Invest in dry erase markers and let the kids write on their desks.

It’s engaging, it’s different, it’s fun—and it gets them talking, sharing, and connecting mathematics visually and verbally.

See how this resolution works in Deb Beeman’s high school geometry class:

Math Resolution #2: Use an “exit ticket” where kids summarize what they learned that day.

With the help of some scrap paper, take advantage of those last few minutes of class to have your kids summarize something about what they’ve just learned in math class. They’ll then give you their summaries—their exit tickets—as they leave the room.

This exercise accomplishes several things: It keeps students quiet and focused at the end of class; allows them to reflect on and communicate their understanding (or lack thereof); provides you with some formative assessment, and as a byproduct, assesses how effectively you taught the material and what may need to be reemphasized the next day; and helps you get to know your students.

Here’s an example of one type of exit ticket, used by Dr. Lorraine Maneen in a high school algebra class:

Math Resolution #3: Act things out! Be dramatic!

Not all students can understand a problem simply by reading it. So, act it out. Do a simulation. Help them visually see what’s going on and clear up misunderstandings before they begin problem solving. This activity promotes questioning, analyzing, corrections of misunderstandings, and formulation of solutions.

In this clip, Kelly Bradley uses simulation to clear up some student misunderstandings in her Algebra 2 class:

Changing how you teach to benefit your students is not always easy, but it is a lot easier if you take it one step (or resolution) at a time. I bet there are many of you out there who have classroom tricks to share that could quickly, easily, and effectively add a spark to someone else’s class. What methods do you use to put a new twist on teaching and learning math? Keep us posted!

Happy New Year, and happy teaching.

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