Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Block Period Break

I teach on a 1.5 hour per class block, and lately (this year), I've just been plowing right through a concept for the whole class. I tried something different yesterday that maybe I'll keep doing (or doing periodically).

Various comments and glances at tests have reiterated the fact that basic math skills are not as fresh and exciting as they could be: adding and subtracting positive/negative numbers, factoring, FOILing, etc. I don't want to stop class and reteach these things for a large block of time, but I don't want to ignore it. A few days ago, I discussed the +/- issue briefly. I showed them a potentially new trick. Then yesterday I wanted to see if it stuck.

Right in the middle of class I announced, "Pop Quiz" and handed out quarter sheets of scratch paper. Now my pop quizzes are just for their/my knowledge, and I don't record it. I put up 6 +/- problems, and they did it and they graded their own papers. I asked for a show of fingers on how many they got wrong. We moved on back to our regularly scheduled program, since there were low "wrong" numbers. This took all of 3 minutes (?), and it provided their brains a break from logic and proofs for a bit, and I'm SURE they were refreshed and ready to go again afterward :).

Maybe next time it will be a factoring break of 2 problems.


  1. David Osborn10:03 PM

    I really liked your idea about the quizes and I'm definately going to try it.
    I'm a 57 year old former financial aid director who just started teaching high school mathematics this year. I'm making less than half my former income - but it's great! Something different every day.
    Anyway, I recently read an article about spliting students into groups and allowing them to use their notes, books and each other to answer questions in a test. The study showed that it increased retention.
    This friday I'm going to give that a try. I figure it's my first year, I might as well experiment a bit. It's seems like anything new is welcomed by the students, and it's fun to keep them a bit off guard.
    Anyway, keep up the good work - I enjoy your blog.

  2. That's an interesting idea. It takes a bit of stress off the students, and if they use their notes and friends that would allow more discussion and processing of information.

    Ms. Cookie

  3. David - can you tell me the URL for the article?

    Ms Cookie - do you have any hints for teaching factoring trinomials when the leading coefficient is not one?

  4. Hi Ricochet,

    I've had the most success with this trick:


    In fact I have the same kids in geometry this year, and we reviewed factoring with the problem: 2xx + 13x - 7, and most of them immediately remembered the "X thing".

    Let me know if it doesn't make sense, and I can try to explain it clearer.

    Good luck.

    Ms. Cookie