Reflection: Student Led Inquiry Solving Linear Equations in Two Variables - Section 4: Collaborative Activity: Analysis of Sample Student Work


Reflection Guiding Question: How did the task promote engagement with important mathematical ideas? What mathematical topics did the students discuss?

During this collaborative task, I was pleasantly surprised with the sincerity and depth of communication students engaged in. As a reminder, during this collaborative time, students analyzed sample student responses that each showed a different strategy for solving systems of equations. 

The task engaged students with mathematical ideas because of the rigorous content of the task as well as the instructional setup of the activity. The content covered a number of different strategies for solving systems (graphing to estimate a solution, elimination, etc.) that we have previously covered in this unit. By focusing on the same goal (solving systems) with a number of different tools/strategies, it pushed students to integrate their thinking.

For example, during this lesson I overheard one group have a conversation about how all of the strategies could work to solve the problem. This "ah-ha" kind of moment was great to hear as a teacher, and I think activities that promote an inquiry based approach in a collaborative group setting tend to cultivate these kind of moments.  

Another common theme of student conversations centered around the kind of feedback and critique the group was making for each of the sample works. One group had a wonderful back and forth about whether they should be giving more general feedback (well organized, showed their thinking, etc.) or if they should be focusing on content specific feedback (sample work forgot to multiply both sides of equation by a constant...). When I heard the conversation I stuck around and after a couple of minutes asked the group: "Could we give both types of feedback? Is one type more helpful than the other?" At this point the group re-engaged in the conversation and I rotated to check in with another group.

Although I was very interested in where the conversation was going, I felt that the group was in a great place because they, for the most part, were engaging in relevant conversations about math! (what else could a math teacher ask for? really.). 

At the surface, analyzing the work of others may seem to water down the process. The beauty of this activity, however, is students are given a solution and get to dive deep into the reasoning behind another person's thinking. I think that students engage more with critiquing the reasoning of others as a natural step before they are able to dig deep into a critical and honest analysis of their own thinking. Personally, I know it is much easier for me to critique a paper or problem of a student or colleague compared to critiquing my own work. 

  Critiquing the Reasoning of Others
  Student Led Inquiry: Critiquing the Reasoning of Others
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Solving Linear Equations in Two Variables

Unit 4: Making Informed Decisions with Systems of Equations
Lesson 6 of 12

Objective: SWBAT solve problems involving two linear equations in two variables. SWBAT interpret the meaning of algebraic expressions.

Big Idea: This MAP Classroom Challenge provides students with an engaging and thought-provoking activity about notebooks, pens and cash registers to learn about solving equations in two variables!

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