Creating a Community of Learners – Week 2 Update

August 26, 2010 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

So far, so good. Actually, it’s a lot better than that. The students in my elementary algebra class and my intermediate algebra class have formed tight bonds within their groups, and their overall attitude in class is fantastic!

Yesterday in my elementary algebra class we covered the section on applications of linear equations. It’s the first exposure to word problems in an algebra class for these students, and is often quite traumatic for many students. (In case you’re not aware, word problems and fractions are still near the top of the “No Thanks” list for developmental math students.) I covered 5 types of problems during class – I worked through one example with the class in an interactive fashion, then the groups worked through a second example together and then walked me through the solution. There was a great mix of solo work and collaborative work going on when the students were trying to work through their example. At the end of the class, I gave each group a 5 question quiz to assess how well they understood. This quiz session was highly interactive for each group – they really are learning how to work well with each other.

Tuesday’s intermediate algebra class was done completely in groups. We began with a group quiz on absolute value equations and inequalities, and the groups also worked very well with each other. Lots of conversation, questions, and answers. I noticed several students explaining a concept to one of their group members, trying to help them understand the solution. After that I gave a second group assignment – a review of graphing lines by using intercepts and by using slope. We hadn’t covered this topic at all, although it is review material from last semester. I wanted to see if students were willing to take the lead in investigating topics they had not seen in a while, and I was happy with the results. It seemed that each group had at least one person who was able to explain graphing using x-and y-intercepts and another who was able to explain graphing using the slope and y-intercept. The following day I was able to give a mini-lecture on graphing lines before moving on to graphing absolute value functions, and the previous day’s review seemed to make it go really well.

I am considering giving a group test in my elementary algebra class for Test 1. I do this from time to time, and I think it will be a great way to show students that working together can have a real payoff. If I do give this exam as a group test I will be sure to share my observations in a future blog.

Do you have any experience with group exams? If so, please leave a comment or reach me through the contact page at my web site –


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Thursday I will be blogging about the importance of community in the classroom. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


Entry filed under: community, Math. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Absolute Value Equations and Inequalities A Nice Story About Graphing And Confidence

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