January 22, 2013

Fun Way to Equalize Math Participation

Math Buddy Chat Freebie in Two Languages

Have you ever paired students with a partner to solve math word problems? While this might seem like an effective strategy at first glance, having kids work together without some sort of structure might actually be quite ineffective. I discovered the flaws in partner work a few years ago, and I created an activity called Math Buddy Chat to make partner problem solving far more effective. I shared this strategy in a webinar called Math Problem Solving: Once a Day, the Easy Way which you can watch for free on Teaching Resources. Today I want to share this activity with you and tell you a little about why it's so powerful. Also, thanks to the generosity of Canadian teacher, Caroline Houle, I'm now able to offer it in both English and French!

Problems with Partner Problem Solving
I'm a firm believer in cooperative learning, but I recognize that it can easily become group work if you're not careful. Let's look at the scenario of assigning two students to work together to solve a problem. As a teacher, you hope they will BOTH think through the problem, try different strategies, and discuss their solutions. But that seldom happens. Instead, one student quickly solves the problem and then tells the other student what to do and what to write. Sadly, the passive student may have been perfectly capable of solving the problem, but the assertive student has already done the work, so why bother? In most cases, unless you provide some sort of structure, only one student will be actively engaged.

The Math Buddy Chat Solution
When I analyzed what was going on with my partner activities, I decided that it was time for a change. The fact of the matter was that too many kids were letting their partners do all the work for them. To foster more collaboration, I developed a step-by-step problem solving method that requires both students to participate equally. With Math Buddy Chat, students alternate between working independently and working together as they solve problems. To make this activity really easy to implement, I created a PowerPoint that you can show to your students as you walk them through this 4-step problem-solving method. You can download it for free from my TeachersPayTeachers store, but I also recommend watching the problem solving webinar if you have time. You'll pick up some valuable tips for how teaching problem solving in your classroom and how to use Math Buddy Chat effectively.

Causerie Math? What's That?
I've always loved sharing my teaching resources with others, so when I first logged on to the Internet back in the 90's, I was excited beyond all else! I joined discussion groups with teachers from all over the world, and I've continued to collaborate with teachers internationally. However, I've also discovered that sometimes the ability to share is limited by language differences.

So last week when I received an offer from a teacher in Quebec to translate some of my materials into French, I was immediately interested. Caroline Houle wrote that she found my materials on TeachersPayTeachers and would love to use them with her students. Unfortunately, she can't because her students speak French. I decided that the idea was worth exploring, so we agreed to start with the freebie Math Buddy Chat. In French, that translates to Causerie Math. Click the image or this link to get the French version of Math Buddy Chat. How cool is that!

You might be wondering if I have plans to translate anything else into French. Right now I'm thinking of this as a fun experiment to see if anyone is interested in having other materials translated into French or perhaps Spanish. Please leave a comment to share your thoughts on this with me. Would you be interested in purchasing any of my products if I had them translated into another language? What language and which products? You can take a look in my TpT store to see what I have available in English, and let me know which items would be useful in another language.

Who knows where this might go? For now, I simply want to thank Caroline for her generosity in volunteering to translate Math Buddy Chat. She opened my eyes to the possibilities!


  1. After receiving permission from you, I've translated a number of the reproducibles from the Power Reading Workshop into French. My students love them! If you want a copy of the French version, please let me know.

    1. Yes, please contact me at lauracandler@att.net to share your work with me. Thanks!