I’m trying to make my blog less *OMG-you’ve-got-to-try-this-amazing-activity-that-I-found-cuz-it’s-awesome* and more analysis of my teaching and an examination of where improvements can be made. That being said, this post is going to be a little of both.

Today, my Algebra students did another Talking Points activity on linear functions. I used the same format I did with Number and Operations where I gave them 5 minutes to look over the TP’s and make any notes they needed for the group activity. Here’s the link if you are interested in seeing what they chatted about. As I honed in on their exploratory talk, I noticed that many more of them were convinced by the reasoning of their tablemates and changed their “unsure” to “agree/disagree.” I’m not sure if that was because the topic was a tad more difficult, or if they are getting better at listening to one another. Of course, I am hoping it’s the latter.

At the end, after they wrote their self-assessments, we talked as a group about some of the points that they were still not convinced of agreement or disagreement (which included *The opposite reciprocal of zero is zero*). I tried to do this using the Talking Points rules, even though the whole class was able to participate in the discussion. I feel that this was a positive addition to the process.

Okay, onto the real star of today: An Nrich Task.

Each group of 4 receives a pack of 16 cards with algebraic expressions on them.

They cannot take cards from other group members; they may only give cards to others. Each person must have a minimum of two cards in front of them at all times, to alleviate the temptation of having one person sort the cards. To complete the task, each group member must have four cards in front of them that have the same simplified expression. Caveats: no talking, no non-verbal communication, no writing, no taking others cards.

I used the Glenn Waddell #TMC14 Smartphone Camera Hack to position my camera in the back of the room and I took a time-lapse video with my old iPhone. Although I can’t post that video online because it contains images of students, I did make a screenshot with blurred faces:

I mean, you can practically SEE the brain sweat pouring from their ears!

In our debriefing, we discussed what was hard, what was easy, and what strategies they developed. Here are some highlights:

- It was nice to be dealt a card that was already simplified.
- Besides not being able to talk or non-verbally communicate, it was difficult to simplify some of the expressions mentally.
- It was difficult to not take cards from others, knowing where they belonged.
- A good strategy when starting was to see if there were any matches to begin with.
- Another good strategy: give unsorted cards to players who have completed sets so that they can help divvy those out.

I was so impressed with these kids today. I know that they will learn more together by working with one another. I’m so thrilled that THEY are beginning to see the truth to that.