Any chance we get to shift students' thinking is great, but resources like Formative Assessment Lessons (Classroom Challenges) from the Shell Center take it to a new level. I have implemented many of these as a classroom teacher and now as an instructional coach, and each and every time kids make new connections, experience "a-ha" moments, have meaningful mathematical discussions, and are highly engaged.
I have used card sorts to review and reinforce concepts, to make connections among representations, and establish group work norms. Some of them have even helped me allow students to discover new ideas, including vertex form of quadratic equations through this gem!
Today I was in a classroom where the teacher was helping students make connections among linear tables, graphs, and equations. She used Mrs. Math's sort to give her class time to explore. Her launch was to ask them what they noticed and wondered about the three representations in purple. Students' thinking is in green.
Next, students explored only the graph and equation cards to try to make matches. They were overwhelmed at first, but then started to create subcategories like "positive slopes" and "goes through the origin."
And thus began the magic. Some of their observations and strategies were noted on the board as they discovered them. The scribing doesn't do the conversations justice, but you get the idea of some of the connections they were making.
The Shell Center was my first introduction to these powerful tools, but since then I have discovered several other sources.
- Desmos has some labs, complete with Pro Tips for implementation
- States like Georgia and Kentucky have expanded to K-5 resources
- Lots of teachers are creating their own, too, like Beth at Algebra's Friend, and this one at Better Lesson
I'm sure many of you have come across some great resources, too. Please share in the comments so that we can all build our arsenals of these amazing tools!