I am a fairly traditional teacher. I believe that people learn by doing, and people learn mathematical processes by doing them.
However, doing a hundred questions is dull, so I’m always looking for ways to make a simple worksheet more interesting and involving. Here are a few ideas I’ve collected over the years and my thoughts on them:
Collect a joke
I’ve used and created a few of these before [click here for an example]. I like them. Student’s are often quite engaged finding the joke, however groan worthy it is and they’re kind of (whisper it) fun. Following the trail lends a puzzle element. However, there is a problem with them. Often, when students complete the joke, they can’t help but shout it out. This then removes the motivation for other students to complete the work. I’ve not managed a way around this yet.
Tarsia [see here] is everywhere. Most people are comfortable using them, and theres a lot of material available on the internet. You can also test misconceptions by tweeking the questions and answers and if you do these one between two it can get students talking to each other (which is always good). However, I find that the larger Tarsia puzzles can often go on a little too long (even with interruptions to keep students on-task) and they are not actually that different from a normal list of questions.
The other problem is that once a Tarsia puzzle is finished there’s the issue of what you do with it. There’s no greater way to irritate students than to ask them to put all the cards away and back from where they came, but asking students to stick it down and keep a record can be a waste of time.
Thoughts and Crosses
Thoughts and Crosses is, as you would expect, a take on naughts and crosses [see example here]. I’m keen on gamification in my classroom, so the idea of a worksheet as a game really appeals to me.
There’s also a nice twist in that students have to push themselves to win, and there’s quite a good self checking mechanism in place, where students are invested in checking their answers.
However, the problem here is that if both students have misconceptions, the mistakes can often go unchecked but it’s obviously fairly easy to go through the answers.
Quiz, Quiz, Trade
Want to know what this is? Click here. I like this idea of students coaching each other, however it’s difficult to let go. It may be good practice for some with a good grasp of the concepts, but I often use questions as a tool for learning. I expect students to get things wrong, to be corrected and learn from their mistakes. Maybe quiz, quiz trade allows this and I need to let students be more in charge of their own destinies, but I’m not quite convinced yet.
What things do you use to disguise a worksheet? Should we be disguising worksheets or should we doing tasks that are inherently different and more engaging? Leave a comment a join the debate.