Math Expert Groups, Take #1

Slicing every day in March!!

Today we did expert groups in math for approximately 20 minutes.
It was my first attempt at organizing students into self-selected groups with one student responsible for teaching the rest of the group a particular math skill.

First, I asked my students to think of something in math they felt comfortable teaching someone else. Then, they wrote this down on a sticky note. Next, I collected the sticky notes and selected four students to lead four different groups. Finally, my students sorted themselves into groups by math topic.

At first, my students were reluctant to write down something in math they felt they could teach their classmates. They were reluctant to play along with me because their roles were not clear, even though I had prefaced this activity by saying that we were going to experiment with a new structure. In other words, we were bound to make mistakes and flounder our way through this event. Afterwards, we would talk about the next iteration of this activity.

Some students had to think really hard before deciding what they could teach someone else. In fact, one girl never wrote anything down on her sticky note.

Afterwards, I randomly selected four students to be the “teachers” and I asked the rest of the class to join a group of their choice.

And, off they went!

At first, I tried to listen in to each group and participate as appropriate.
But, after a while, one group asked me to answer some of their questions.
In retrospect, maybe I should have declined their invitation and left them alone to work things out for themselves.

After 20 minutes, I stopped the class and asked everyone how this first round of “expert groups” had gone. There was lukewarm support for what we did. I think they’d never been asked to do something like this before. They weren’t sure what they were supposed to do, especially the “teachers”.

Nevertheless, I think there’s potential in repeating this activity, but with more structure. For example, instead of having one child in each group play the teacher, she or he could serve as the group leader. The group leader would be responsible for getting things going, but everyone would contribute to the group’s understanding and skill base around a topic.

Still thinking about this, but if you’ve done something similar I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section. Thanks in advance!

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