Made 4 Math Monday: Student Magnets
I use magnets (about 3/4″ diameter, 1/4″ thick) for a variety of activities in class. Originally, I had one set labeled with colored/numbered sticky dots (each student is assigned a color and number to determine seating assignments) but last year I had students design their own. They really seemed to claim ownership and enjoy activities more, so I will repeat that this year, even though I will have to purchase more magnets to do so 🙂 (I believe I found them at Michael’s before, and I have a 40% off coupon!) One of the First Day/First Week activities involves decorating and “claiming” a magnet.
I store each class set on a magnetic mini-whiteboard and pull it out for the students to “find” their own each time we use them. Many of the activities are related to a “Math Greeting” I have as students enter the room. I only have pictures of a few that happen to still exist on my iPad. I hope you understand the others based on my descriptions.
Data collection is a common use, whether it is regards to the students themselves:
These would be followed up by questions on slides relating to the data. I will often take a snapshot of each set of class data and the next day follow it up by having students compare and contrast the various classes. When data is gathered from an experiment, I will usually complete a few more trials to make the total a “nice” number for analyzing. (See the plain black magnets on the second image.)
Towards the end of a Unit, I will often make a list of the concepts we have studied and have students place their magnets on the concept they found most challenging. (Some students are adamant that there should be a “none” option, but I remind them that it doesn’t have to mean that they find it challenging anymore.) This gives me some feedback regarding where I should focus my review activities.
I have also used this idea by choosing a current concept and having students rate their understanding on a scale of 1-5. I am not thrilled with the outcome for a few reasons. Students tend to inflate their level of understanding due to the presence of other students (and other magnets,) and “level of understanding” often implies “I can do it” rather than “I understand.”
Number Line Plots
I have draw a very long number line on the board, often with values marked only at the ends and equal intervals between the endpoints. Students “draw a card from a bucket,” pick up their magnet, plot the point with their magnet, and attach the card “label” by sticking the corner under the magnet with the value still showing. The values on the cards can vary, depending on what we are studying: decimals, fractions, mathematical expressions, square roots to estimate. . .
As a class we analyze the number locations. Students have the opportunity to move their own magnet if/when they recognize errors in their thinking, and also recommend changing the placement of other magnets they feel are inaccurate.
Coordinate Plane Plots
One option is similar the the activity described above, but the cards contain ordered pairs for students to plot. This is just for practicing accuracy with plotting. Class discussion follows.
Another option involves drawing 2-4 sets of axes (different colors) on the board with a different rule written above each one. The card drawn will indicate the color and the x value. Students will plot “their” point and record the value in a table. After a class discussion for accuracy, follow-up question on a slide will provide opportunities for more analysis and comparison.
A third option arises when looking at bivariate data. Class scatter plots can be created based on students data or based on student opinions (on a scale of -10 to 10, chocolate on the x-axis and vanilla on the y-axis – or whatever “variables” you want to investigate.) Again, follow-up questions provide opportunity for analysis.
The class is divided into 3-4 teams, lined up behind an imaginary “exchange zone” line. Each player has their own magnet (with an extra magnet for someone to go twice, in case the teams aren’t even.) Each team is assigned an area on the board that may include a number line or a coordinate plane. A stack of cards (one per relay “leg”) is on the tray at the whiteboard. On “go” the first person goes to the board, picks up the top card and plots the point (similar to the activities described above.) When they are done, they tag the next player, who takes the next card. .. etc. Only “you” can move your own magnet. If you see a teammate make an error, you can help them change their location, but only verbally. Only ONE person at the board for your team at a time, so if you plan to move your magnet, it must be “between” two of your teammates. There is a 30 second penalty for each incorrect location, so you are better off helping fix the error before the end of the race. Once your team is done, ALL hands are raised to signal your “finish.”
The Enduring Mathematical Understanding comes not as much from the participation in the activities, but in the follow-up discussion and analysis.