Cogito Ergo Nerd

  • Farica Erwin

A couple of years ago Sarah Carter, of @mathequalslove fame, created an activity called Question Stacks. She posts many great activities and you should definitely spend time on her blog.

Since then, I have used many from the repository and created some of my own. It is one of my most used practice activities in class. It promotes collaboration, communication, and self-checking.

And then the pandemic...

All work moved to online. We scrambled to teach remotely and I missed doing all of my activities. As we face starting a brand new year virtually, I wanted to take of those activities online.

So, I started digitizing my question stacks and card sorts. You can check out the example of a question stack I posted on Twitter. I use this example as a template. Using the old original question stack documents and my snipping tool, I digitized new ones in minutes. Super excited that it does not take a lot of time!

I also started to digitize my card sorts.

I did not want to post each one individually to Twitter, so I thought I would use my rarely used blog to post all of the files together. Please feel free to use them as-is and post for your students, or make you own copy to edit as you like. I have provided both links.

KEEP CHECKING: I will continue to add as I create them.

*I am trying to work in the order I would use them in my class*

I have tried to credit those who created the original activity. If you find I have digitized your activity without credit, please contact me and I will fix it. Some of the files had no author and a google search came up blank.

  • Farica Erwin

Updated: Jul 28

In the beginning of my teaching career, I was devoted to the idea that students needed to do nightly homework because math was a cumulative subject, and material kept building, and students needed to make sure they could do it on their own, and blah, blah, blah... But, I hated checking homework. I assigned only the odd problems, so students could check their own work and I could grade on completion. I still had students not even attempt the assignments, but more often than not, students just did the assignment for the grade. They never checked their answers. I had many students with high homework averages and extremely low quiz & test averages. The reverse was also true. I had students that mastered every test, but never completed a homework assignment. In the latter situation, I had students end up repeating the course because the grade was not high enough. Things needed to change!

My summer of 2017 was spent reading, researching, and stalking Twitter about other people's experiences. Processing my own personal "why homework?" question, I focused on that fact that homework, in my class, was purely extra practice. It was just a piece of the student's own personal math journey. I needed something that accurately reflected that learning. So, I completely revamped my grading policies. I decided to switch to Standards Based Grading AND eliminate the homework grade. Big steps!

I still believe that students need to practice, but more importantly, they need to learn when and how to practice. I no longer assign homework. I provide extra practice, daily. Additionally, I try to use sites like DeltaMath, where the students can have infinite amount of practice with immediate feedback. At the start of the school year, we have many class discussions on who the practice is for (their own personal use - not a teacher check), what should they be practicing (new AND previous material), when is good time to practice (daily when they can, definitely before quizzes and tests), why is there so much practice (so they can practice all the time, any time), and how they determine if they need the practice (low quiz grades or not solidifying understanding in class). Students should only practice enough to understand the material. It should not matter if they needed zero problems, 5 problems, or 20 problems to "get it." And they should not be rewarded nor penalized for needing or wanting that amount of practice.

In the years since I completely dropped the homework requirement, my overall class averages have not changed much. In fact, the class average has improved AND I have less repeaters each year.

I do have to constantly reiterate that just because I do not grade the practice does not mean they do not have to do it. It irks me when parents tell me that their child claims they have no homework, ever. At the beginning of the year, I make it clear to the students what happens when I hear this comment from parents. I proceed to show those parents exactly where to find the plethora of practice material AND explain how they can monitor the completion of the practice. Practice is not optional. The amount of practice needed, is optional.

UPDATE: At the end of the 3rd quarter of the 2019-2020, we moved to emergency remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My class average at the start of remote learning stayed the same as the end: 88.14%. I had no students repeat the course.

  • Farica Erwin

Updated: May 6

The first real week of school is always devoted to learning routines. AND our first week is usually a four-day week! I cannot even begin to tell you the benefits of easing back into routines and the beauty of letting your body recover from the most exhausting week of the year.

To begin the year, I love using Sara VanDerWerf's Name Tents. It is a great way to get to know the students. I also provide a prompt each day, otherwise I get "I don't have a comment" on a lot of them. Since I sometimes teach the same students again, I change the prompts each year. This year, I used:

  • List 3 traits of your all-time favorite teacher

  • List 3 traits that define you

  • What is your favorite "sport" to watch or play?

  • Share a boring fact about yourself. (borrowed from @drrachelbrenner)

I do not need them to learn their names because I know who most of them are before they enter my room. I like to use them as a way to individually interact with the students. However, this week, I was horrible about remembering to return them. And reminding them to write in them. And collecting them. It was basically a disaster. None of the students seemed to notice.

Random Groups

Starting on Day 1, my students are seated randomly. Every one of the student chairs is numbered. Each student gets a number based on my roster. That is their number all year. I have a max of 16 students in each class and use 4 groups of 4. Every student is required to sit in their numbered seat every day. However, every morning I change where the seats are located based on a Random Grouping Sheets document. (All I have to do is highlight column A, click the down arrow, and choose randomize range. It then changes the group configurations.) They must get to class to find their seat before the bell rings. Best part of my day is watching them hunt for seats!

Day 1:

After having the discussion about Friday's activity, we worked through Sara VanDerWerf's 100 Number Activity. We play 2-3 rounds. After which, I always ask if they noticed me taking pictures (of either activity). It's a great discussion about how focused they are because they never know, even when I forget to silence the camera clicks.

In addition to discussing more group norms and routines, I use this time to explain my picture taking. Students (and/or their parents) sign a photo release for school. However, I still feel like I should ask and get their permission for using their picture. Everyday is different and there may be some days you just do NOT want a photo taken of you. I explain that I post everyday to Instagram through #teach180, but the pictures are of the math and not them. They will know I am taking them because I say things like "I need a picture of that," or "freeze your arms for an over the shoulder shot." If I ever take a picture of their face, I will ask them first, it will be staged, and it will be used only for the internal school slideshow or parent newsletters. I do not post their face to my Insta (even with permission). I just don't wanna deal with the mess.

Day 2:

Wrong answer! Cute boat though

About a third of my students had a field trip. Using Fawn Nguyen's Noah Ark problem (via Sara VanDerWerf's blog as the original links seem to not work anymore), I introduced the Stand-And-Talk routine that I also got from Sara. I love that the students usually see all of the important info before they ever see the problem. Many of my students even give ideas for what the question mark in the problem might mean before asked.

Day 3:

Now that everyone was back in class and I felt like I had been introducing so many routines, I decided to introduce another! Questions Stacks by Sarah Carter @mathequalslove

I love this routine. Self-paced and self-checking, the students begin to love them too.

Students are supposed to enter my class having already mastered solving equations, but ... things happen, new students arrive, assumptions are made (and we all know about those). So I spend two days having the students go through three different QS with three types of solving problems

The activity helps to remind students of their solving skills they already have, and allows me to work with those who need refreshers.

Pro Tip: If you print these on business cards, use a marker or highlighter to color the inside seam on both sides. This way you can still color-code your sets for when one ends up on the floor.

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