I teach a “mathletics” class where we do mostly mathcounts problems. I wasn’t happy with the way it was structured last trimester, because kids generally weren’t engaged as much as I would have liked. So this trimester I re-structured things. I keep a spreadsheet of team points, it’s a running total. Today we completed a warm up and two challenges.
The warm up was “how many golf balls does it take to fill up a school bus?” and any reasonably justified answers were accepted. Then we went into mathcounts stuff.
The key is in the structure. Each kid gets the same sheet of problems, and each group of four or five has a single answer key where they write their final answers. At the end of the round, I collect the team answer keys, give the correct answers, and then distribute the next activity. While students are working the next set, I grade the last set and update the team points on the board. To complete 5 challenging problems groups never have more than 10 minutes. To build off the last post, give the most points for the easiest stuff, and only a few points to the hardest material – that will keep students at varying skill levels engaged and allows the most competitive kids to compete without blowing everybody else out of the water.
A few benefits of the structure I noticed today:
1. Because the teams are fairly evenly picked, the scores are close enough to make it a true competition.
2. There’s higher engagement.
3. It’s easy for me to keep the tally accurate because I only have to grade one paper for every five kids in the class.
As we move on I may sprinkle in some tips and tricks, but the vast majority of our time is spent with groups working problems.