VNPS & VRG Tango!

So Kristen and I are taking dance classes – so any three step process feels like a tango to me.  This activity has nothing to do with dancing (sorry).  This is one way that I use Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) and Visible Random Groupings (VRG) for problems where we are working on our procedural fluency – whether it being solving equations with fractions, or factoring polynomials.

One down side of VNPS is that students believe they are finished when the correct answer reaches the whiteboard, rather than when everyone in the group understands how to do the problem.  The one student who knows how to solve it just goes up to the board and solves it.  There are a couple methods to help give students less places to hide in a group – here’s one of those methods:

Pick three problems that are similar.  Tell students that there are going to be three rounds.  In the 1st round they will be in groups of 3 (randomly assigned of course).  Then in the 2nd round they will be in groups of 2 (randomly assigned again of course), and lastly they will be back in their seats working alone on paper.  That’s it.  Throw whatever standard you want at it.  I believe it works because the thought of eventually being alone gives them the extra motivation to learn from their group.

Here are the three problems I started with in my geometry class, where my goal was to give them practice multiplying polynomials, solving by factoring, and using pythagorean theorem:




From what I’ve seen – the knowledge that they are eventually going to be alone makes those students who usually look for a place to hide in a group more apt to contribute and learn from the first two rounds.

I love to pose the question by waiting until they are in their groups and standing at whiteboards, then I pose the question on my whiteboard in the center of the room.   It’s a nice math coach moment versus math teacher moment.

Here’s a smattering of whiteboard activity from this day:





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