I have been reading Making Thinking Visible, and participating in a weekly online chat, #makthinkvis with another mathematics teacher, @pamjwilson. We are nearing the end of the book study, and are both at the stage where we are trying out the thinking routines with our classes.
I have a grade 11 IB Mathematical Studies I class, and have tried two such routines with this group in the last couple of weeks. The class is very small: only three students, and I am not sure whether this is good or bad for group thinking routines. There is great focus, as the class is very manageable, but fewer ideas coming forward, with fewer students.
The first routine I tried was Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate, as a review exercise as we prepared for a Linear and Quadratic Functions test.
The generate portion was very successful: I sent the three of them up to the whiteboard and between them, they confidently covered all the concepts we had been learning.
Then, when it came to sort, the results were quite pleasing, too: they realized that recognizing and working with a quadratic equation in various forms was the key to the unit.
My sense is that they were tired by the time it came to “connect”, as they were not as confident with making connections between the different parts of the unit. The diagram above only has one connection…..which I contributed. 😦
For the “elaborate” portion, I asked them to write a Moodle journal entry (which enables me to see, and respond to, all their private responses on the same page). I asked them to write what they thought the most challenging parts of the unit were for them. Their responses indicated an overview of the unit that was firmer than I would normally observe. I felt as if they had a better sense of the unit as a whole.
In terms of the results of this exercise: they did not do so well on the basic short-answer questions, partly because they are still coming to terms with the language of the IB. However, the results on the more challenging extended problem solving portion were much more encouraging than expected.
I wonder if the improved test performances were related to the review strategy. That’s hard to verify. But I do sense that the ideas will stay with the students longer, as they have made their own meaning of the unit.