I failed yesterday.

Background: I encourage students to work in pairs or occasionally triples with a single puzzle-sheet shared between them. In my classes paper is a scarce resource. I love to see co-operative math as in the photo above. However, I have been relaxed about students working in pairs… if a student really wants to work alone I let them.

Yesterday I came to one class with sufficient puzzle-sheets for everyone. They were beautiful. One student after another wanted their own and I just relented so every student ended up with their own puzzle-sheet. The class seemed to progress with the consistently high engagement that I expect, but I was wrong. One student was getting more and more frustrated. She later articulated that she did not have a “strategy” and after abortive attempts had shrunken in frustration. Extroverted frustration is easy to spot, but I missed her introverted frustration.

The solution is two-fold.

  1. I need to make rounds of all students more regularly. This is obvious, but in this class the energy level of so many students was so high (in a good way) that I was darting back and forth from one “discovery” to another.
  2. I need to stick reasonably rigidly to the rule that students should be sharing puzzle-sheets. A student partner is my best back-up to ensure that learning is going on. (Another advantage: If a partnership fails it will usually be an extroverted fail and easier for me to spot.)