## Friday, September 14, 2012

### What Time Is It?

I have a wall of clocks in my room.Each clock has a different math "theme" with all sorts of expressions that equal each of the 12 hours of the day. My students love these clocks! They enjoy trying to figure out how each expression (most waaaay above their level of thinking) could possibly equal the number it says it does. I decided to take their interest in the clocks and use it to my advantage.

We're midway through our exploration of the order of operations.  I wanted to give my students a chance to breathe (mentally) and allow their learnings to cement in a little. I wanted to have an activity where they could practice what they've learned so far and where I could see what they knew.

I remembered a clock activity that Fawn did with her students last year and decided to morph her idea into an activity for my students. I told my students that each group was going to design their own clock. The assignment was met with lots of interest and excitement! I explained that - instead of each number on the clock - they would write an expression that demonstrated their ability to use the order of operations correctly.

First, I had each group grab their mega white board and use it to plan what expressions they were going to use.  This was a great use of the boards! I heard lots of great math talk and saw lots of wonderful collaboration as they struggled to come up with expressions that would work.

As the groups worked, I was able to walk around and eavesdrop on conversations. It was wonderful to see my students trying different expressions, analyzing why some weren't working, arguing for their way of solving, and rejoicing together when they finally found one they all agreed worked. Fabulous!

As each group finished their planning, they got a
blank clock face to write their expressions on.
They then decorated them as they chose and then proudly displayed them on a wall for all to see.

I was really happy with how this project turned out. The students were able to work at a fairly high level of analytical thought, they were able to be creative, and they were able to practice their group communication skills (my sixth graders still need LOTS of practice with this). :)

There were lots of benefits for me as well. Instead of grading 173 papers with several problems on each paper, I was able to simply walk around, talk to my students, write some quick notes about problem areas I was seeing (exponents!) and make notes on individual students. The project turned out to be a wonderful formative assessment opportunity for me.  I learned all I needed to know about where each individual student was and  I was very easily able to see where some reteaching was needed, what areas the students had totally mastered, even found a couple of students who are ready for some extensions.

Next week.... way more practice with exponents, a little more practice with parentheses, I'll throw in some embedded parentheses and, finally, throw some dreaded fractions into the expressions.

If you try this activity, I'd love to hear how your students reacted and I'd love to get any suggestions for making the activity better next time.

Below, I've put a few more examples of student work and a blank clock, just in case you'd like to try the project.

1. Thanks for sharing this idea. Did you set a guideline for the kind of expression that needed to be created by students for each #1-12? Length, number of operations, number of terms, etc.?

Thanks,
Dan

1. I didn't set hard and fast guidelines. I told them I wanted them to have a variety of expressions and that they needed to show their ability to use parentheses, exponents, etc. While I was wandering around the classroom, I was able to give suggestions/ask questions to those who were stuck and I was able to encourage my high flyers to try something a bit more challenging.

2. I want to do this next week with my 6th graders, Angie! I really like your idea of working as a group and whiteboarding first. I was looking online for clock kits to actually turn maybe 2 or 3 clocks (top votes or something) into real ones. We're doing order of operations too. Thanks, Angie, and of course for the mention also.

1. Turning the students' work into real clocks is a fabulous idea! Make sure and take lots of pictures so we can see what they look like! The whiteboards are really working out well. This was a perfect use of them; I've noticed a much higher degree of true collaboration when I use them.

3. I love this! You have fabulous ideas! Thanks!

4. Thank you! Everyone had a blast with the project!

5. This looks like a lot of fun.(It reminds me of the four 4's puzzle. Lots of room of multiple answers, and some clear criteria for what works.)

(Btw, I think you meant expressions in the first paragraph, where you said 'equations'.)

1. It was fun! I like the four 4's puzzle too. I might try that when my students get just a little better at creating their own expressions.

Thanks for letting me know....that one slipped by me when I proofread. If only spell check could read my mind and proof my writing by my intentions! :)

6. I don't have anything new to add, but I want to echo the other commenters. This is a cool idea!

7. Agreed! Totally stealing this idea. Love how you integrated whiteboards, and gave kids the opportunity to 'choose their challenge.' Am excited about Fawn's idea, too - to make real clocks.

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