3-Acts: Using Digital Tools to Give Every Student a Voice
By Cathy Yenca, posted February 29, 2016 –
position statement regarding the use of technology in teaching and learning
mathematics includes the following:
technologies include communication and collaboration tools and Web-based
digital media. These technologies increase students’ access to information,
ideas, and interactions that can support and enhance sense making, which is
central to the process of taking ownership of knowledge.
In my experience, the most useful digital tools aren’t always
math-content-specific. Tools that showcase student thinking, help facilitate
rich discussion, and hold every student accountable have a positive impact on
students’ mathematical sense making. Combining a task with such technologies
prevents students from having an “out,” while providing the teacher with
student work samples that can be considered during class as well as revisited
after class is over.
One example that I have used with students came from a silly photo
in my travels to the NCSM Annual Conference in New Orleans two years ago. Since
many of us have perpetual access to a camera on our smart phones, it’s simple
to capture math when we see it, even if it shows up in unexpected places. My
moment happened at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
Using my photo, I captured Dan Meyer’s elements of a “3
Act Task” in a Nearpod lesson for my
students. For those unfamiliar, Nearpod is a digital presentation tool that
enables teachers to present slides to students on their own devices while providing
students with opportunities for assessment. Rather than simply pose the elements
of a “3 Acts” experience to students, I like to use a tool like Nearpod to
truly capture student thinking through their answers to open-ended questions,
polls, quizzes, or even through drawing out and sharing their mathematical
work. This format makes it easy to hold every student accountable, while
empowering me to share anonymous student responses with the whole class along
start, students are presented with the photo and asked, “What’s the first
question that comes to mind, if any?” Next, students are given the opportunity
to write and submit their question to me, knowing that their responses will be
anonymously showcased to the class. This gives students an opportunity to have
some individual think-time. Some students may think about math, and others may
not. Allow students to be “kids” here. In a mathematical modeling session at
the NCTM Regional Conference in Nashville this past fall, Mike Wiernicki and Graham Fletcher emphasized the importance of
encouraging students to form questions without crushing them in the process. Nearpod
provides a format for this to be sure. Here are some sample responses from my
classroom. As you can see, not all
of them are “mathy”:
Now it’s time to coax students to explore one particular question. Here’s
the one I chose, followed by student responses. Again, I’d like to emphasize
that all of these ideas might be lost if they aren’t collected in some manner. Without
a tool to gather student responses, it’s too easy to simply call on a few
willing volunteers, and as a result, possibly miss interesting student
Next, students are presented with the dimensions of the tank and cylinder.
Using a “Draw It” slide, they work together in teams but submit their individual
mathematical work to me. I can share it anonymously with the class for
authentic on-the-fly error analysis. Here are several interesting work samples,
all of which contain errors in student thinking that provided opportunities for
immediate student discussion during class.
In the Nearpod lesson, I reveal the final volume,
in which we consider why the volume we calculated is still an approximation. Students then answer a series of follow-up
entire Nearpod lesson is available here if you’d like to explore more. I
hope you’ll consider combining math tasks with technologies that capture every
student’s voice in your own classroom.
For another “3 Acts” using Nearpod example, visit
this blog post.
Yenca, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a
math teacher in Texas. She tweets at @mathycathy
and blogs about teaching mathematics in a one-to-one iPad classroom at mathycathy.com/blog.