Building Community through Debate!

I’m writing this in the summer of 2020, knowing that my upcoming school year will start remotely and pondering ways to make sure community and relationships are leading our work in math class.

My current plan is to give students a “non-mathy” debate question to do in their breakout rooms every single day, before they work together on the math problems for the day. I want students to have a chance to talk and connect, as some of them might not know their classmates well, and I want to normalize having fun/being silly at times. Connection will be so important. So I’m thinking that every time we go off into breakout rooms for a significant span of time (10-20+ mins) to work on problems, I will instruct them to first have everyone share a response to the debate prompt I give them. Then they can transition to the math work.

Here are some fun “non-mathy” prompts I might use. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Shoutouts to Claire, Patricia, and Karla for helping add to this list!

  • What is the best movie/TV show to watch right now?
  • What is the strangest thing one of your family members did this week?
  • What is the tastiest meal you have had at home?
  • Who was the best middle school teacher?
  • What is the worst freeway in Southern California?
  • What is the best sports team?
  • If you had unlimited funds, what would be the best place to visit that you’ve never been to?
  • What are the best pizza toppings?
  • Where is the best place to get coffee?
  • Should we allow electric scooters on the sidewalks?

The prompts above are more open-ended. Claire, Patricia and Karla also shared some two-sided debates they had with their students, such as:

  • Twizzlers vs. Red Vines
  • Vans vs. Nike
  • Cheddar vs. White Cheddar (mac and cheese)
  • Mountains vs. Ocean (most relaxing? most fun?)
  • Starbucks vs. Coffee Bean

Students should respond using the “my claim is…my warrant is…” debate prompt.

I’m looking forward to joining different breakout rooms and getting a taste of their personalities through these small, silly debate moments.


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