Nuffield, Applying Mathematical Processes (AMP), Sending Texts
What we did – the use of the resource and the impact on learning
I have always been interested in ‘rich task’ activities and I started using AMP activities while I was an NQT. I was given the ‘Teaching & Learning’ responsibility in the department this year.
Like almost all mathematics departments, the Scheme of Work at my school is organised around content. This activity was done with a Year 8 group (4 out of 6). The students were organised into pairs and they were encouraged to discuss their approaches with one another.
Firstly, I had to simplify the activity to ‘hook’ my Yr 8 group in order to get my students engaged. I placed three students, who had the worst behaviour in class, to the front. I gave them sticky notes in different colours and asked them to imagine those notes are their mobile phones and every time they sent a text to each other, they gave one note to the person whom they had texted. Modelling started with these three ‘difficult’ students at the front and, as soon as they got engaged with it, I gave the other groups the sticky notes and some ‘draft papers’ to investigate the task.
The ‘draft papers’ asked the following questions:
- How many text messages are sent if four people all send messages to each other?
- How many text messages are sent with different numbers of people?
- Can you think of other situations that would give rise to the same mathematical relationship?
Text messaging was the first activity done with the group. After the lesson, I tried to use the assessment grid to assess my students. These grids are written in teacher language although they have been used by some teachers without modification for self- and peer-assessment. My next step was to simplify the language used to make it more pupil-friendly.
I added a space at the bottom of the grid (see grids below) for students to write comments for their peers.
I used an idea that my PGCE tutor, Don Newton, suggested to me and asked the group to complete these tables after doing three tasks when the pupils had a better idea of the work.
After the lesson, using peer-assessment (‘polishing’ is the word used by Prof. Malcolm Swan), I could use the mistakes the students did in their work to start the next content lesson with their mistakes. Some of my students used a line graph to show the relationship between the number of students and the number of text messages. The next lesson was using their graphs to explain the difference between continuous and discrete data.
Potential barriers and possible solutions
As a teacher who teaches a significant number of EAL students, I needed to go through the vocabulary used with care. Sometimes, students are misbehaving in a lesson because they don’t know what to do, because they do not understand the meaning of some of the words in the problem.
- Be patient; it takes time.
- Do not have too much expectation for the first one or two activities.
- The students in my group increased their confidence in tackling maths questions.
- I feel more confident in doing group work.
Some teachers might say that they don’t have enough confidence to do group work. To develop the use of ‘rich task’ activities, I tried ‘Research Study’ or Lesson Study in the department which has been a positive move forward in the department. For instance, we sat and planned one activity together and then we videoed our lessons and sat and reflected on the lesson.