Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I smell...a Math Scavenger Hunt

Standardized Testing is over! We are all celebrating. However, a challenge we face now, at the beginning of April, is that all of the standards have been taught. Many of our district’s pacing guides have us reviewing and re-teaching the exact same standards that we did before testing.

For math, we’ve already spent the year in small groups, doing a variation on Math Workshop, and project-based learning. What do we do now? I wanted it to be relevant, engaging, and enjoyable for my students. As I was pondering it, the television show The Amazing Race was on. They were doing a scavenger hunt type of challenge on the streets of India. All of a sudden, a brainstorm hit and I decided to adapt that challenge into one we could use for math.

First, I created 5 stations within my classroom. Each station had two challenge problems that the teams of two had to solve together. Once they solved the problem and checked it, they could bring their solution to me and explain how they got their answers. If their answers and explanation were correct, I gave them a card with two letters on it. Then they travelled to the next station. The goal was for each team to successfully complete all of the problems correctly and then take all of their letters and arrange them into a phrase.

I let the learners chose their partners, but they had to choose a partner with whom they had not worked on any projects this school year. Since we do so many activities and projects, it was a bit of challenge for them to locate a suitable partner. I wanted to encourage my students to get to know another student. Also, it broke up my high, medium, and low math students forming heterogeneous pairs.  Without me assigning partners, each pair had at least one very strong math student to guide their partner through challenge problems. However, both students had to explain their solutions to me.

On the day that we did this, I had all of the stations set up and I staggered the pairs at the different stations to avoid everyone working in the same area of the classroom. We had a discussion where the students set the behavior/procedural practices for this activity. Then off we went.

I figured that they students would enjoy this Math Scavenger Hunt. What I didn’t expect was that they would be so focused and engaged in solving these math challenges that after and hour and a half, they didn’t want to stop. They followed their behavior guidelines and didn’t even realize that guests had come into the classroom. Also, I was able to assess their abilities without having to give and grade a practice page, workbook page, worksheet or test (not that we do much of that anyway...but that’s what their peers in other classes are doing). The energy and enthusiasm was palpable.

Although they were trying to unscramble the letters to find out what their prize was, that wasn’t their focus. It was the challenge of completing the task successfully. Their prize was a “lunch bunch pass” which means they get to choose two friends to sit with at lunch and go through the lunch line first. They always love that pass, but they really enjoyed completing the Scavenger Hunt more.

They are begging to do this again and it can easily be adapted to any content area and any grade level. So next time the television is on, you might want to pay attention. You never know what inspiration might hit. My kids had every bit as much fun as the pairs working together in India on The Amazing Race and from what the pairs on TV said, I think our Scavenger Hunt smelled better.

No comments:

Post a Comment