Math Activities that Make Students Collaborate

I don’t know about you, but with the return to school this year has come a lack of collaboration in my students. It seems they all want to collaborate with me! But don’t know how to turn to their neighbors and work together.

We know that collaboration is a great strategy to help students learn and enforce their understanding of a topic. So how to do make them do it when they seem to have lost the knack?

There are two activities that I have embraced in my classroom that require kids to work together: Matching Activities and Scavenger Hunts.

Matching activities are one of my favorite activities. Students receive a baggie full of cards. Some of the cards have problems and some have answers. You can even make a 3 step match where there’s a problem, the required steps, and the solution. Or, for example, an function, the table that goes with it and the graph for a 3 way match.

Matching Cards, cut and bagged and ready for students to match.
Inequality Matching cards with verbal description, inequality and number line.

Of course the key to the collaboration piece is structuring the work. I require all members of the group to work out every question on a dry erase board and compare their answers and discuss differences. Sometimes I lay down a collaboration rubric to guide the conversation.

Math Collaboration Rubric to guide the conversation.

It’s also helpful to assign roles. Timekeeper, Recorder, Problem Organizer, Calculator checker, etc.

Another activity that can really encourage even the most reluctant collaborators to work together is a scavenger hunt. I create scavenger hunts where the answer to one problem leads you to the next problem. In this way, the problems are “self-checking”. If the kids can’t find their answer on another problem in the room, they’re wrong and they have to go back and check again. My students LOVE the immediate gratification of knowing their answer is correct because they were able to find it in the room.

Again, during scavenger hunts, I require that both students work the problem and compare answers. This means there are 30 kids walking around with dry erase boards and calculators solving problems and discussing the work. I require groups to stay together. They can’t wander off and talk to their friends or they lose points.

A great spin on the scavenger hunt is to offer extra credit points to the top 3 teams who can bring me a properly completed answer sheet.

I usually run these activities on the day before a quiz or test. I find it’s effective at helping all students hone their skills by helping each other. Hopefully you will too!

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One response to “Math Activities that Make Students Collaborate”

  1. […] problem with multiple steps. (See my post on structuring collaborative group work, or my post on collaborative activities for more on […]

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