How do we get kids to that point? It's easier than you might think! One key is structuring math assignments so that students are motivated to think, and they are rewarded for unique approaches to problem solving. The second key is giving kids time to talk over new concepts with a partner.
Predict, Justify, & Check Partner Math Talk Activity
Use this simple partner math talk activity to boost engagement and increase rigor with almost ANY assignment. Pair each student with a partner before the activity, and then guide them through these steps. If possible, have students repeat this cycle of predicting, discussing, and checking answers several times before moving to independent assignments.
- Predict - Before solving the problem, estimate the answer and record your prediction.
- Justify - Turn to your partner and justify your estimate or prediction.
- Check - Solve the problem. Where you correct? Discuss why or why not.
What's the secret to Predict, Justify, & Check? No one likes to be wrong, so asking students to explain WHY they believe in a certain outcome will make them think critically about their reasons. If they are right, they are rewarded by feeling a sense of pride. If they are wrong, they are motivated to figure out where they went wrong in their thinking because they will want to get the next one correct.
Try It With Fraction Predict and Compare
To see this strategy in action, visit my Fractions File Cabinet page and download one of the two Fraction Predict and Compare freebies to try with your students. (The only difference is that one has a penguin theme and the other is penguin-free!) The directions below are for whole group instruction, but it can also be used as a guided math lesson or in math centers. Each packet includes a Predict and Compare math mat and special fraction cards that have fractions on one side and corresponding fraction bars on the other side.
Partner Prediction Activity Directions:
- Pair each student with a partner. Each student will need a dry erase board or scratch paper for recording responses.
- Display the Predict and Compare math mat under a document camera, and place two fraction cards on it with the number form face up. Don't let your students see the fraction bars on the backs of the cards.
- Ask your students to think about which fraction is larger and to compare them using <. >. or =. They should record their responses without talking to their partners.
- Next, ask everyone to compare their dry erase boards with their partners and to talk over the reasons for their answers.
- Finally, flip over the fraction cards to reveal the fractions bars on the backs of the cards. Show your students which fraction is larger and discuss their answers.
What's exciting about Fraction Predict and Compare is how quickly your students start applying a wide variety of creative and effective strategies to compare the fractions.When I created Penguin Fraction Predictions, I asked for volunteers to test it out with their students. Kris Sandwell agreed to try it in her 3rd grade class, and that evening she shared this feedback with me:
"My students LOVED this! They did not want to leave and requested that we play it again - not once, but twice! There was so much conversation going on - how to figure it out, do we use number lines or some other tool, what was the best tool to use, how to we do equivalent fractions, etc. These were 3rd graders and they had so much fun I almost wanted to start yelling down the halls about how incredible the activity was. I would strongly recommend this for any teacher who teaches fractions!"Formative Assessment or Center Game
I was thrilled that Kris's kids love the activity, but I was more excited about her comments regarding their conversations and the critical thinking that was taking place. The activity works really well as an formative assessment before you introduce the concept of comparing fractions. As you walk around the room observing your students, you'll see who will need extra help and support with this concept. The activity would also work well in a math center to reinforce the concepts after you teach comparing fractions.