I have always thought it important for students to learn to work cooperatively. When I worked in the private sector, we worked as teams or groups – almost never without some kind of interaction with colleagues. Kids need to know how to work in collaborations, too.
And so, we set out this week to work in cooperative groups to create “rules” for defining two-dimensional polygons.
I modeled the expected outcome (a chart listing the attributes of the four polygons each group was investigating). I semi-randomly created groups of 4 students with one eye on creating a heterogeneous group. Defined and had students take on group jobs – recorders, materials, etc. And sent the groups on their merry way to focus on the task.
Which failed miserably. Why? Because despite our attention to polite dialogue (one student ended up telling her group to “shut the hell up”), the task of working with others needed to be broken down further. Even the simple – or so I thought – task of choosing one out of the four to record on chart paper was unattainable. I ended up spending much of the period on how to choose a recorder, what the responsibilities might be for the materials manager, etc.
Clearly, this is something my students and I need to work on aggressively. After we re-gathered in our meeting spot to talk about what was not working, I knew we needed to work much more diligently on getting along in a group so that the task (remember that?) actually is completed.
Yes, this is a very egocentric group; many try to have private conversations with me at the same time! But we need to learn how to get along in a group and how to negotiate working under group dynamics.
And that, my friends, was the take-away from that math lesson.