Saturday, February 16, 2008

Math Game That Teaches (me) Humility

One of the first important lessons I learned as an educator of jaded, over stimulated teenagers is that games are the way to go. Competition becomes a social aspect of class work and assessment that truly engaged students in the age of video games and one-upmanship. In my class it’s everything from vocabulary bees to Global Studies Bingo and everything in between.

Last week I created a game to help students conceptualize the number line and get a mental picture of what makes numbers negative. Some may think that negative numbers are baby stuff for high school students, but the abstract idea coupled with shoddy math programs (Everyday Math, I’m talking about you!) has made 4th grade math hardly comprehensible. The game consisted of a number line that spanned the entire blackboard, from -20 all the way to +20, and the students would select number cards that would either have a negative or positive number (some would be equations that would have to be solved to get a positive or negative number.) The winner would be the first person to get to +20.

The only problem, and this is definitely an example on inexperience, was that I made an equal number of cards that moved a student forward and moved them backwards. Can you tell what happened? For an entire math period, students stewed in frustration as the hung towards the middle of the number line, mostly around zero. No one won, because all the negatives and positives canceled each other out! It didn’t end in riot or anything, and I quickly declared everyone a winner…but it certainly was one of my more rookie mistakes of the year. In a way, I needed that humbling moment to remind me that I am still learning.


Anonymous Magistra said...

What a great idea! I think I'll be adapting this one for my classroom soon. Thanks.

Saturday, March 01, 2008 8:16:00 PM  

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