Intervention through Practice and Puzzles

15 Dec

I teach a 7th grade intervention class, and have been for several years. In addition to working to fill gaps in fundamental skills, I try to increase the students’ interest in math and to build their perseverance in problem solving.

To help fill the skill gap I use:

  • White Board Practice: About twice a week, the students use small white boards to work out problems I put on the the front board. I only put two problems on the board at a time; walk around to check their work; go over the two problems with their input; then I put two similar problems on the board if the majority did the first set incorrectly, or I take it up a notch or switch to a different skill. I find that this practice with immediate feedback is one of the effective tools for skill improvement.  Update: An English teacher at my school regularly uses gaming strategies to invigorate practice via worksheets. Check out her post to learn how to gamify your worksheets: Worksheets=Complete and Utter Engagement.
  • Playing Zonk:  Zonk is a fun, group-work game that I discovered my first year teaching, eight years ago. You can use it to review any topic. Basically it requires a pocket chart where you place 25 cards; each card has a picture on one side (mine has a bulldog, the mascot from my previous school) and on the other side are points or the word “ZONK”. I put a problem on the board, and the groups work together to solve it. The groups try to get consensus on the correct answer, helping each other were needed.  If group 1 gets the answer correct, they get to pull a card after we have reviewed the problem. If not, I go to team 2, and so on. The part the kids especially love is picking the card. If they get a ZONK, their turn is over and they didn’t earn any points. If they get a number card, they can keep those points, or risk them by picking another card; however, if they pull a ZONK, they lose all the points they just earned (points they earned from earlier rounds are unaffected).  The students never seem to grow tired of playing this game, and some serious review and student-to-student tutoring goes on during the game.

Perseverance Skills:

  • Almost everyday we start the class off by playing the daily online SET puzzle.   The first time the students play it, it takes about 20 minutes to solve, but after a few weeks we solve it under 3 minutes. We record all our times on the board. Our current record is 1 minute, 33 seconds. How do we play it as a class? I tell them that each column is labeled A through D, and each row is labeled 1 through 3. Students communicate their set using ordered pairs like (B, 3), (D, 2), (A, 1).  I think this game has taught them that working together can be more efficient than working alone, and from a math standpoint, there’s a lot of analysis, proving, and comparing/contrasting that goes into creating each set.
  • Tower of Hanoi:  Another puzzle that pushes the students to improve and persevere. I eventually connect the game to math as we work out how to come up with a solid method for achieving the least number of moves, and predicting what the least number of moves is required per puzzle.
Student solving SET by himself, learning it takes a lot longer compared to when we solve it as a class.

Student solving SET by himself, learning it takes a lot longer compared to when we solve it as a class.

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One Response to “Intervention through Practice and Puzzles”

  1. Mary Dooms December 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks for sharing those links! I never knew about the Daily Set or Tower of Hanoi until now.

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