It’s nearly exam time (hey, no complaining, y’all with a month or more of school left made me jealous last August!). In the past, I’ve been a huge proponent of Waterfall Trivia and math stations as review techniques. Both helped me wrangle large, unruly classes that didn’t really want to review for an exam or test. This year I have a blessing and a curse wrapped into one: my students would actually prefer to sit and listen to me recap the entire semester over 2 or 3 days. “Re-lecturing” is just not valuable in my opinion. The kids are passive, so they’re not likely actually getting anything new from the activity. I’d prefer activities where the kids do most/all of the in-class work — Quadrant I in my chart below. Some teachers aren’t so lucky as to have such academically-minded students, so their review activities need to get the kids who don’t want to, working — Quadrant II.

the matrix of doom!

My criteria for a good review activity with this batch of kids:

  • avoids cutsey gimmicks
  • hits >= 80% of content covered this semester
  • allows serious problem-solving in class
  • has me not recapping the whole semester at the board for n days.

With my criteria in mind, here are the best ideas shared by my Twitter peeps.

Recitation Problems from Kelly O’Shea. Kelly writes:

About two weeks before the end of the semester, my students get a big (usually 24 pages), intimidating packet. It has one problem per student*, and the problems are problem+blank-page type of questions (that is, juicy ones that require multiple steps without breaking the question into parts that would structure the work for you). They tend to cover most of the main skills, but especially the ones that my students have found most difficult.

When they get to class the next day, we pick letters A through however-many-students-there-are. Then I give them my pep talk about how they should choose their problem. Whichever problem they choose, they will get to present the solution the class. They will have to become an expert on that problem. So I encourage them to pick the one that looks scariest to them. Pick the one that you would least like to see show up on the exam. Pick the one that will be hardest for you (it will be different for different students, of course).

Recitation Problems hits all my criteria without adding a ton of stress to the kids in their last week of regular classes.

Math Basketball from Dan Meyer. Dan writes:

  1. You bring in a set of questions related to the previous two week’s instruction.
  2. You put up a question.
  3. A kid stands up with an answer, either correct or incorrect:
    • If it’s incorrect, the student sits down, reworks the problem, and you wait for another student to stand.
    • If it’s correct, the student takes two shots with a miniature basketball into a lined trashcan. You award points according to a) the student’s distance from the trash can, and b) the competitive mode you’ve selected below.
  4. Repeat.

Review Activities Aplenty from Becky Rahm

I wound up doing math stations because they’re pretty easy to set up and help me carve out time to ask individual questions. Here’s the setup:

  1. Print a set of problems for about 10 minutes of work on a sheet of paper. Repeat for each topic. Spread the problem sets around the room. I taped mine to cabinets, Julie Reulbach uses acrylic frames (way cooler).
  2. Print answers and hang them in one spot near you.
  3. Set a 10 minute timer tell students to choose a station with <5 people already there, work problems, and check answers at will. If they can’t get their problems answered by a classmate, they stay with me until station time’s up or question is answered.

Stations are easier to set up if you collaborate with a colleague.

global math logoI’ll be sharing, along with Matt Vaudrey, about Exam Review That Doesn’t Suck on Tuesday, May 21 at the Global Math Department. Join us! It’s completely free and online at 9pm Eastern / 6 Pacific.