Math Drama

Here is an activity that I have just finished over the last couple of days.  Feel free to download the PDF and share it.  You may not use the exact details, but I found the overall progression of the lessons to be well balanced and thought-provoking.

ABC International School Math Debate (PDF Version, if you would like the Pages version, or PPT, email me and I can send it along)

Slide 1 - Welcome to ABC International School

This slide is there to set up the story and give the students some perspective.  We spent a bit of time analyzing the message from the Head of School, and visualizing what the school looks like inside, how it smells, what it sounds like, and what it feels like to be inside.

Slide 2 - Choosing your role

Here we are trying to give the numbers and the math a frame, or a perspective.  Instead of analyzing the data, I want them to be thinking about how it affects their life (or the life of their alter-ego).  Once we worked out the groups and chose the roles in the fairest possible way (Janken!), we spend a bit of time brainstorming our new perspective and trying to think about what who that person is on the inside.  What is their life like?  What are they afraid of?  What do they love to do?  What are their parents like?  We got into role and did some drama to embody the characters.

Slide 3 - The Data

Here is where we did the math we have been practicing.  We are working on making graphs and tables and then reading them to make inferences and conclusions.  First, I give the students a data-set, and then ask them to find a stem and leaf plot (we also ended up making a Box and Whiskers on Geogebra).  I also leave it open with an open-ended question at the bottom in order for them to connect any other methods of analysis that we have encountered, or that they bring to it from their personal lives.

Slide 4 - T-Charts and Inferences

This is where we start to look at the data and use the numbers to make inferences, or draw conclusions.  At this point, I ask them to try and be objective and not choose a side.  That is why the T-Chart is an enabling constraint in this section.  It forces the students to think about from their characters perspective, and from both a positive and negative point of view.  Of course, this is impossible, since we are all biased.  However, the thinking exercise is a strong one.

Slide 5 - Debate

This is where I ask them to choose a side, and make a judgement about what classroom is more successful.  I give them some time to prepare their case, get their main ideas down, expand on their earlier thoughts, and just spend some time thinking about why they think what they do, and why their character or alter-ego thinks this way.  We try and imagine some personal connections that our characters could bring to the debate, since we all embody our history.  I encourage them to admit if they are unsure, and have difficulty choosing a side.  Several students went into the debate with the attitude that they did not know, and their contributions were very powerful for the group.

Slide 6 - Reflection

These questions could be anything really.  You could relate it back to the math.  You could relate it to the thinking strategies that were used.  Anything.  I choose to relate it to the social dynamics, to see if they were aware of any changes that may have occurred in their opinions.  How did the opinions of others change you?

Finally, I asked them to think critically about the practice of giving out grades.  Is this a good way to judge what students learn?  Call this the hidden curriculum of the lesson.  I was wondering if they would pick up on the fact that numbers are sometimes a difficult way (and dehumanizing) of analyzing a situation.  How do you choose a number to represent learning?  Is that number accurate?

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