1. It encourages experimentation & a growth mindset
When I asked my kids what their favorite part of the activity was in our feedback session, I was relatively sure it would be answers like this one (arguably the most honest of the day):
Q: What did you like the most about this activity?
A: Watching the marbles
2. It made the students think....hard
Q: What did you like the least about this activity?
A: "I had to do a lot of thinking and that's not something I'm fond of at 9:30 in the morning."
When I was reading my students' negative feedback I felt the familiar feeling of being asked your biggest weakness in an interview. "Oh, I just work so hard that sometimes I struggle to balance my life outside of work"...."I care too much".....you know the answers. Everything that my kids had listed as a challenge was something I was extremely proud to have asked them to do. Here's just a few of the things they liked least:
- "I had to do a lot of thinking and that's not something I'm fond of at 9:30 in the morning."
- "The open ended questions"
- "How frustrating it is... but i actually do like it.. so I really don't have one. I guess the worst part is when we had to get off :("
- "I got really frustrated, but I'm just really competitive"
Also surprising, the number of students who said "It made me think" as a positive was triple the number of students who said it as a negative.
3. It required critical analysis of mathematicals- a CCSS gold mine
This activity is all over the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice. I watched my students makes sense of a situation (both physically and mathematically) and persevere through LOTS of frustration. I watched them critique the reasoning of people around them as they competitively worked to solve a puzzle fastest. They looked for a made use of structure, recognizing the way that transformations have affected functions they've previously mastered and applying it to the functions we were currently practicing (periodic ones!). They took all these practices and started to express regularity in repeated reasoning, weaving together their knowledge from class with the patterns and peculiarities they noticed. Here are few of my favorite kid comments:
- "[I liked] Being able to see how the graphs changed as we went"
- " I liked that it challenged me. It really made me think about the separate parts of the equation and what each of them do."
If you haven't already tried it, please do! Desmos has pre-made ones for lines, periodics, parabolas, exponentials, and rationals. It's a Pre-Calculus or Algebra II dream!