Friday, April 5, 2013

Math Circles...Discussion Groups...Collaboration...You get the idea

UPDATE (4/9/13): For an update to my math circles, click here.

As you can see by the title of this post I am a bit conflicted on what I want to title my new math project...for now I'm going with Math Circles because the idea stemmed from Literature Circles.

So here was/is my dilemma.  I spend the majority of my time during math class having discussions about the videos the students watched the previous night.  I do think this is valuable, but I want my students to take more ownership in this part of their learning.  That being said, if I just told my 5th graders to go off & start sharing, they would either:
A - look at me like I'm nuts
B - head off to discuss many things (very few being math related)

Since I want neither of those things, I needed to find a way to make their group work both meaningful and spelled out for them.

What I came up with was Math Circles.  I have had success in the past using Literature Circles in my classroom.  Each student had a job, and they held each other accountable.  That is exactly what I want for my math kiddos as well, so why not take the idea of Lit. Circles and mold it into something that works for math.  After talking to my co-teacher, we came up with the following "jobs" for our math groups:

Discussion Director - Leads the discussion and keeps everyone on track.

Calculator - Makes sure that the groups answers to the questions from the video are actually correct.

Spokesperson - Is the voice of the group.  This person summarizes the groups guiding questions (HOT question at the end of the video) and shares them with the teacher.

Task Master - Keeps track of who did/didn't come prepared, and how often people within their group share.

I have a list of procedures spelled out for the groups.

I plan on beginning this after spring break with the students.  I hope they get as excited as I am (although that's unlikely because I'm pretty dang excited about it).

I'm not one to pimp my own stuff, but if you'd like a copy of my Math Circles information, you can get it here.


  1. I love this idea! I'd like to use this in my classes, too. I think having the different tasks spelled out will be super helpful for the students and I'm curious how it works for you. P.S. How did you make those graphics? They look great!

    1. I used pages to create all the graphics. If you have a mac I'd be happy to email it to you. I saved it as a pdf & uploaded to googledocs, but somewhere in the translation it lost it's prettiness (is that even a word)...But here's the link to that file, if you just want to check out the format I used.

  2. Love this idea, do you think it will work with 11th and 12th graders? I had the same problem last year (either I had to lead the discussion or it wouldn't be as productive as I wanted).

    Does the Task Master help you cut down on the time it takes for you to check off work?


    1. I think it could absolutely work with 11th & 12th graders. I think it all comes down to training them, and getting their input as the process moves along. What's working for them? What isn't, etc. Good luck! Let me know if you decide to give it a try.

  3. Would love to hear feedback on how this went. I am hoping to flip lots of my lessons this year and am interested in using this as I am familiar with Literature Circles, so seems like it would be a smooth transition for me and my fourth graders.

  4. Love this idea, but what math videos are you talking about?

  5. Love this idea.It's completely different. I really impressive with it. It's very useful for students.Thanks for sharing.