May 8, 2014

Notice and Wonder MCAS Edition

This is post 200 for this blog and post 15 for #MTBoS30. Woot! And now back to the regularly scheduled post.

As we continue our state test prep as seamlessly integrated into regular class as possible, I gave my students an open response question deliberately divided up into parts. First, I projected the context. No questions, only the information, and asked them to notice and wonder.
A few students were thrown off by the lack of a question, but most saw the "What do you notice? What do you wonder?" at the bottom of the screen and got right to work. It was a great way to start because when students said, "The problem says 40 but the table says 50." I could reply, "Great! Write that down!" When they asked how to pronounce his name, "Write that down!" Any question or comment they made got the response "Write that down!" Then I called on kids to share what they wrote. I don't cold call in general, but when I know a kid has a something written I will call on them. In my small class I asked every kid. In my bigger class I asked every row. Then I made sure everyone who wanted to participate had the opportunity. 

I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I was excited that all the classes highlighted the 40 dollar start in the paragraph vs. the 50 dollar start in the table. It was a natural opportunity to point out how important reading the title of the table is. All the information here is important. Two of the three classes wondered how to pronounce his name and I asked the question in the third class. That was a good time to say, "Of course if he was standing here I would ask him how to pronounce his name because that's the polite thing to do. But since he isn't and it's not relevant to the problem, I'm going to call him S." I proceed to cross out the rest of the word so it says Seung and give them free rein to not worry about words they don't know. Worry about the ones they do and see if they can solve the problem. Test taking strategies successfully integrated into discussion!

The students figured out the pattern of adding $10 each week and asked how long it would take him to save up for a TV. We discussed how it would depend on the type of TV and proceeded to the first two questions.

I gave students some time to work on these problems in pairs. Most moved quickly to counting by 10's. I encouraged them to record something if they weren't drawing the table already. In one class when we were discussing this part a student said, "I got it wrong, but I want to share." I was so so so happy he did that! He took the 4 weeks and double them to get 8 weeks, so he figured the total would be double as well. I thanked him profusely, complimented his reasoning and then helped everyone see what was doubled (40+40 vs. 40+80).

For part b students had different approaches and varying amounts of success. I had many conversations that included "try 1 and see if you get the answer you expect" as somehow that still isn't a natural next step for kids once they've written an answer. I love writing equations of lines where you can see the start and the change. Even kids who didn't find the equation using that language were able to make the connection when I asked, "Where have you seen 40 before?"

You and I would probably jump right to using the equation. I mean, we just wrote it and I made sure to tell everyone, "Write this down before I change the slide, you'll need it!" However, kids think differently than I do, and that's spectacular. There were some really creative methods as well as a couple kids who made the table all the way to 28. My favorite was the students who thought they were supposed to make a table and gave me a look of  "crazy woman I'm not doing that!" and I responded, "Yes, exactly, find an easier way." The kid who recognized 28 = 20 + 8 so the money he had would be 20*10 + (answer from b) impressed me the most. That method uses the previous work as well as the pattern in a really slick way. I didn't tell the kids who made the table their method was wrong - it wasn't, they got the answer. But I also made sure that everyone saw how to do part d by solving an equation because that's a skill they need to know.


  1. I LOVE the idea of giving students the table without the question and asking them to notice and wonder! I've definitely got to remember this for next year since we have finished with our testing for the year. Thanks for sharing!

    1. No need to wait, it's not test specific! I do it for all sorts of things. I found that it worked particularly well for this open response question but it's not limited to that.

    2. We've only got 2.5 days left of school this year, so I'll have to wait for next year to try this. I'm not complaining, though! I am READY for summer!