One of the last sessions I attended at TMC15 was on Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces. The amazing Alex Overwijk talked about how he covered all his walls with dry erase boards (non-permanent surfaces) and made students stand (vertical) and write their work/solutions/ideas daily in class. Basically he would randomly pair or group students and send them to the board to work on a problem. Not only was this amazingly engaging for students, but the research behind it blew me away:
Let me first explain a few things:
Vertical vs. Horizontal – basically means standing versus sitting in groups and writing on desks.
Permanent vs. Non-Permanent – permanent surfaces would include poster paper and worksheets, where marks are more permanent, whereas non-permanent surfaces would include chalk or dry erase boards.
The first three rows (not including the number N of groups) – show (1) how long it took students to get started on a task, (2) how much total time the students spent working on the problem or task and (3) how much time it took until students started writing some math notation.
The last six rows – students were scored on a scale from 0 (bad) to 3 (amazing!) for various qualities/actions seen during their work time.
Notice how non-permanent surfaces seem to make a HUGE difference in how fast students get started and how well they participate. The vertical version on non-permanent surfaces is slightly more effective in the different attributes and students tend to work longer on average.
As I sat sitting in this session (which was amazing!) I had flashbacks to my student experiences in 11th and 12th grade. I had the same teacher for PreCalc and Calc. Her name was Ms. Barile, and she made us all stand up and solve problems in pairs or groups on a very regular basis…and I loved it! Somehow in the years the have passed and the mounds of research and observations I’ve experienced, I completely forgot about how important this was to me as a student. Ms. Barile knew it all along. Now I want to do this with my students!