Grouping Procedures and Groupwork An Artifact for Standard #4, by Jacob Choi Mathematics is probably not voted as one of the best team sports to build great bonds in, but when you think about it, the great mathematics competitions of the world use enhanced collaboration to bring together the greatest minds. Think of the team rewards in the Putnam Contest, or the delegations of six students who work as a team at the International Math Olympiad. Later in Standard #10, I have discussed in length the importance of a team working together at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, or any other educational institution in general. In Algebra I and AP Statistics, groupwork plays a role in developing an understanding relationship between the students so that there exists a balance between the combination of great minds and also putting each of those minds to work. In this artifact, we will discuss how groups were delegated and assigned in my Algebra I class for their in-class assignments, lessons, and worksheets.
Above: At the White House Office of Management and Budget, students from AP Statistics classes brought in a diverse range of collective group questions for the host, one of President Obamaâ€™s strategic advisers.
Algebra I is full of students who would love to be stuck with their friends if they were given their opportunity. Thankfully, at B-CC, there is not much of a clique social structure set in, and most students work well along with other students no matter what their background is. Therefore, the need to assign groups by diversity is kept at a minimal, or zero state. For those lessons where it would absorb too much time to give students a group assignment, I institute my favorite informal group designation strategy: free for all! This means that students who would like to sit alone can do so, and others can sit with their friends or simply pair up with the person seated closest to them. It is a rather simple plan and seems random, but when you carefully observe, the students do not act randomly. Instead, they seek out their best friend, or a classmate who they rarely talk to on the other side of the room. Some who speak a little English will couple up with another person who speaks their native tongue, and others will be their own pea in a pod. Occasionally, a long class activity will not permit such a long-term peaceful and productive environment. For days like worksheet or in-class project days, I call on the good ol’ deal the cards method. In this one, I take a few minutes before every class to sort out a pack of cards first into red cards, and then black cards. Each pile then gets sorted out into their suit of hearts or diamonds, spades or clubs.
Finally, I match one suit with another, and mix them up to have a total of 26 cards on hand. Should more than 26 students come to class, I simply whip another few cards out from the next suit and when the time comes, these magic words signal the start of groupwork time: “OK folks, please look at your playing card and find the person with the same face or number as you do…please move together and work together, you have fifteen minutes.” Both methods emphasize an important part of the teacher that is worth mentioning: they both show that the teacher is unbiased and non-judgmental when assigning students to work together in groups. In the cards example, there is no room for the teacher’s decision unless we pull a child aside, and this is also a great example to talk about in Unit 6 studies about statistics and survey design. Fairness, flexibility, and fun make groupwork an enjoyable learning time for all!