I Wonder …

Just before the March Break, our math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, came into the classroom to do a lesson on three-dimensional solids. At the end of her lesson, she taught my students a game: one student would close his/her eyes and another student would put a three-dimensional solid in his/her hands. The student with the closed eyes would feel the three-dimensional solid, describe the properties of it, and identify the solid, all without opening his/her eyes.

Students loved playing this game, and it was a great way to get them to use mathematical language in a meaningful way. Over the March Break, I was thinking about this game, and I thought that it might be fun to have the students write down their clues. Then they could continue to develop their writing skills while also developing their math skills. At the end of the day today, we gave this a try.

Students worked in partners, and they wrote at least three clues about the three-dimensional solid that they chose. Then a couple of partner groups shared their clues with the class. The other students had to listen to these clues, think about what the students said, and choose the correct three-dimensional solid from the pile. Here are two videos of this activity in action:

It was really interesting to watch, as even the students that chose the correct three-dimensional solids, had difficulty explaining why they made their choices. They couldn’t bring their answer back to the clues. This got me thinking: I wonder why. I’m starting to think that this activity would have been more successful if the students put their written clues under the document camera, and then the other students in the class would have a visual to refer to when explaining their thinking. Maybe the students can apply what they’ve heard, but they’re still not fully comfortable with the language yet. Maybe they still need more time being exposed to this vocabulary and using it within the classroom setting, so that they can use it easily in a game such as this one.

I’m going to continue to use the language as we talk about three-dimensional solids in class. I’m also going to have the students talk about these three-dimensional solids even more in partner groups as well as in a full-class environment. Maybe we can even try a Skype call with another class where they give us clues about three-dimensional solids, and we guess them and explain our thinking, and then we can give the clues, and the other class can guess. (If you’re interested in giving this Skype Math Game a try, please leave me a comment here and let me know. Then we can set something up.) I also think that Kelly’s shape game is a great one to play more often in the classroom, so that the students can become even more comfortable using the correct mathematical terms. I’m going to try the written version of this game again, but have the students put their writing under the document camera, so that their peers can refer to it when explaining their thinking.

What do you think of this plan? Why do you think that I saw the results that I did? What would you have done differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Aviva