October 27, 2011

Free Choice In Math - Rigorously Engaging

I have long been a fan of student choice in the classroom. So when I read about a system for math free choice developed by Justin Lanier (@j_lanier) and Paul Salomon (@lostinrecursion), I got really excited. I mean REALLY excited!

Our first Math Free Time was last week - and it was tremendous. Immediately following Math Free Time I asked the students to rate their experience on a scale of 1-4. Every single student gave it a resounding 4.


The skinny -
* 30-45 mins
* Students set 1-3 goals for their free time
* Students choose how to spend their time based on their goals
* Students reflect on their progress and possible new goals
3 students, 3 different math activities:
Raging Rapids logic puzzle, tangrams, create a math game
One student uses Math Magician to improve math fact speed.
Another student works on computer programming with Light Bot.
Two days before Math Free Time I distributed the list of potential tasks seen below. We discussed the ins and outs of each task, then the students wrote about their goals. I typed their goals into a digital graphic organizer at my favorite site bubbl.us. This gave us a GREAT opportunity to discuss goal writing - specific, achievable, challenging.

As students spread around working on the goal of their choosing I displayed a countdown timer and their goals simultaneously. When they completed a goal I simply dragged that goal to the other side of the organizer. The students remarked that having their goal on display so publicly really helped motivate them and keep them on task. It also helped them have some guidance.

One of my favorite things was the way Math Free Time gave my students agency. They took ownership for their own learning and every one of them sought to challenge themselves. I also noticed that the students were motivated by their peers.
Jacob wrote, "My goal is to beat Ashlynd at Blokus because she is the master at it!"
One student worked for 25 minutes straight on a logic puzzle, after having spent 10 minutes with it in a small group the day before during rainy-day recess. When she finally completed it and I moved her goal to the other side of the graphic organizer, she was heartily congratulated and a swarm of other students asked to add the puzzle to their goals too. That's right, my fifth graders are clamoring to do a single problem that took 25+ minutes! So Math Free Time is fun AND rigorous -


~ Amanda

Update - Math free time continues to be wonderful! Check out the changes I've made to make it even better in Math Free Time Does It All

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