This year, I used a model that is from Mu Alpha Theta competitions. Students work in teams of 4 and get a packet of questions, but they can only look at one question at a time (all groups get the same question at the same time). Most questions involve four parts, each of which that has an answer A, B, C, and D, respectively. The final answer to the problem will ask for students to do something with these four numbers, for example, find AxB-C+D.
Here is a simple question:
I started out with some practice rounds and explained the rules. During a competition, if a group gets the answer within the first four minutes, they get 16 points, in the first two minutes they get 12 points, in the first three minutes they get 8 points, and in the fourth and final minute, they get 4 points. However, this was stressing some of them out, and the intent was to review, so instead, I gave the first correct team 4 points, the second correct team 3 points, the third correct team 2 points, and the last correct team 1 point...and in some cases, not all teams earned points because time ran out. I gave students about 5 - 10 minutes a question depending on the question in a 90-minute block.
What I saw:
- students (randomly grouped) working together to solve, deciding how to divide and conquer the problem
- students who got the problem wrong (no points) being helped by students who got the problem right while other groups were finishing
- students talking about math!
- students who did not just see "textbook problems" and practice and regurgitate
- students who saw problems that looked hard but saw how to break them down and solve them
- students high-fiving each other constantly
- Groups celebrating
- LOTS of collaboration and high-level thinking
What I heard:
- "This is the best game ever!"
- "Great job!"
- "Can we do this again?"
- "I could do this forever!"
After each round, I reviewed questions as necessary based on how students were doing. It took me quite a while to pull these questions from the Florida Atlantic Mu Alpha Theta test bank, but it was worth it because, during class, I could facilitate and walk around the entire time. It was highly engaging for students and most were talking about math with a partner or team the entire class. I only had to chime in here or there.
What was cool is that our new Dean of Faculty happened to pop in unannounced to observe the class hard at work!