Using Partner Work and Conferencing in Math

A few months ago during my volunteering, my supervisor introduced me to the idea of Math Sharing Conferences in the classroom, and so far, it is one of my favourite ideas I’ve seen being used during Math. In a nutshell, the activity begins with the students being introduced to a new Math concept in the form of a whole-group lesson. Afterwards, they are presented with a set of 3-4 questions, to be worked on in partners (which have been strategically chosen ahead of time, based upon the students’ academic strengths and needs). The first 2 or 3 questions are designed to reinforce the main ideas from the lesson, and the final question is framed as an extra challenge for the students who finish their work early.

I love this idea for at-risk learners for 2 main reasons: (1) by working in partners, students are both able to split their work load evenly and help one another to problem solve, thus decreasing any stress or anxiety that they may associate with Math tasks, and (2) Once the class has been given ample time to work, the structure of the activity allows for time for the whole class to form a “conference group” and share their strategies with the entire group. This discussion session is great in my opinion, because it gives any interpersonal and verbal-centered learners an opportunity to shine, and it introduces the class to idea that in Math, everyone learns and works differently. I want my students to feel confident in their ability to solve Math problems, and to know that they can do so using an almost endless amount of different strategies. The conference portion of this activity is also a good time to reinforce growth mindset principles with the class, making it an excellent tool for helping at-risk children develop the resilience, determination, and self-confidence that they need to thrive in the Math classroom.

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