This is a contributed post by Stacey Roshan, an Upper School Technology Coordinator and Math teacher at Bullis School.
When we begin our review in AP Calculus AB, I always use a very popular worksheet that is broken into two columns — “when you see the words…” is written on the left and “this is what you think of doing…” is written on the right. Each year, I’ve had my students study this worksheet — either having them make notecards or doing a PowerPoint game with them. This year, though, I decided to do two things to take this activity to the next level:
1. I asked students to find and solve an example problem for each term
Simply memorizing a stack of notecards is going to do very little good for a student studying math, particularly a high level math class like AP Calculus. Throughout the year, before each and every assessment, I give students a list of terms (I call this our “topics list”) and have them make themselves a practice assessment based on those terms. I think that making this assessment is a powerful activity in getting them to connect all of the problems and sections we had worked on within a unit. By going through all their problem sets and trying to find the relationship between it and the items on the “topics list”, students are required to think about why they solved each problem the way they did and how this question relates to the larger unit of study.
I wanted to require students to connect and apply their knowledge in the same way we had been practicing all year long. So I gave each student about 10 terms from the “when you see… this is what you do…” worksheet they were responsible for. For each term, I asked them to find an example problem related to that definition. So first, the student needed to make sense of the term they were assigned. Then, they needed to dig back through questions to find a relevant problem to solve. Finally, once found, they needed to rework the solution.
More specifically, students were asked to write their sample problem on a sheet of paper and then neatly write out a solution, with detailed steps. After completing their 10 problems, they took a picture of each solution (using their phone) and uploaded the picture to a shared folder I had created in Google Drive. I asked them to title their image with their question number only so that it remained easy for me to sort through.
2. I put this entire review in Quizlet
Quizlet is an awesome way for students to study. Quizlet is available on students’ phones and computers, so it couldn’t be easier to access. Quizlet also has so many options for how to study — whether it be through simple flash cards, a game, a test, etc. As a teacher, I can monitor student progress and even see which terms the class is struggling to grasp. In the classroom, I can use Quizlet Live to engage the whole class in a game, where they are required to team up and help one another. And last week, Quizlet announced a new feature, Quizlet Learn, which allows students to set their test date and then generates an adaptive study session plan for them.
My process for creating our Quizlet study set:
- I typed all of the terms in Quizlet. On the front, I typed the term (“when you see the words…”) and on the back I typed the definition (“this is what you think of doing”). This all came straight from the worksheet, with some rewording on my part based on phrases I use with my class.
- I went through the Google Drive folder and checked all student solutions for accuracy. Since I was going to have the whole class study from this set, I needed to make sure we had quality answers. As appropriate, I had students revise their submissions.
- For each term, I uploaded the image that the student had submitted with their sample problem and solution into Quizlet. (Note: you must have a Quizlet Teacher, i.e. paid account to upload images)
I will admit that, on the teacher end, this was quite a bit of work! But I think it was well worth the pain when I look at the final results and how much good studying will be done in the next month using this resource. Initially typing out (with some copy/paste!) all of the notecards in Quizlet was a lot, but I did that over the summer in small chunks, so it didn’t seem bad. And then sorting through all of the responses to make sure that everything was readable in a way that the class could easily study from the student’s solution took some careful attention. For students, it was challenging to come up with good example problems for each term on their own. I only gave light guidance in this part of the activity because I think having students figure out exactly what the term was getting at and going back through old units to dig through what they had solved was one of the most valuable parts of this activity. Had I given them more guidance on this part, it would have made my life a bit easier! But again, the purpose of the activity was for students to begin connecting and applying their knowledge, so it was important to me to leave this task up to students to figure out.
If you are interested in taking a look at the Quizlet set that my class made, you can find that here: AP Calculus Review Notecards, with Example Questions. Feel free to make a copy of this set and use with your own classes. If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Stacey Roshan has a keen interest in discovering and bringing innovative tools into the classroom to engage students and enliven the classroom. She has spent a lot of time working to flip the mathematics classroom in an effort to shift the culture to a more participatory learning space, focused on relationships and individual student’s needs. You can contact her via Twitter and her blog.