Engagement: Low Floor & High Ceiling-A key to managing teams is to provide a task that has an easy-to-understand starting place and that ramps up to challenging extensions. There are some tasks that are inherently interesting, and others that might benefit from having an engaging format to boost the appeal of the task.
For more intrinsically interesting tasks:
Two nice lessons for Order of Operations:
1. Give a team of 6th graders a big handful of pennies and ask them to arrange the pile so another person can know the total at a glance-once they begin to see each other's work and writhe math expressions to summarize the arrangements a class can run on its own steam for quite a while. The teacher becomes the air traffic controller, guiding and orchestrating the "ah, hah" moments for the class.
For less interesting tasks
For lessons where some drudgery is necessary, engagement can be grafted onto a lesson by the strategic use of team activities.
Vocabulary review can be done with a team rubric, team roles and the promise to display the most informative ones.
2. The four 4's game: Using any operations and exactly four fours, have teams generate the numbers from -10 to 20. Teammates consult and agree on proper construction of each answer before raising hands for a sticky note.Scientific calculators can be used to check correct construction of the expressions also.
On a drill and kill day, try dry erase directly on the desktops- the novelty and convenience are powerful motivators. In addition, teacher circulation gives multiple opportunities for formative assessment.