Utilizing Shared Mathematics for Cooperative Learning

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 4/5/2012

Elementary students can effectively and positively learn concepts in mathematics when teachers incorporate collaboration, differentiated instruction, and problem-solving strategies into every lesson. Here are some ways to bring cooperative learning into your math class.

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The Key to Student Math Success

Shared mathematics is an instructional approach in teaching that focuses on the collaborative and cooperative efforts of students. This approach provides students the opportunity to learn from one another; encourages the discussing and sharing of ideas; and involves students working collaboratively to solve a problem or investigate a mathematical concept.

This helps students not only solve problems, but reflect on their reasoning, and learn to communicate their ideas effectively. Incorporate this approach into math lessons every day and watch your students succeed!

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Activities for Shared Mathematics

No matter what unit you are covering in math, try to bring one or more of these learning set-ups into every math lesson:

• Students work in learning centers to investigate a math concept in small groups. They can then move as a group to other centers in the classroom.
• Students engage in decision-making with their peers. For example, deciding which tool to use to explore a concept, or deciding the best way to record answers. This gives students an active role in the problem-solving process.
• Students demonstrate a mathematical idea or strategy to their peers, and likewise, learn another concept or strategy from fellow students. Having students teach other students is one of the best ways for them to connect to their learning, and take responsibility for their reasoning and thinking processes.
• Students work with partners to collaboratively solve a math problem and discuss their findings.
• After an investigation, students are asked to explain and justify their thinking to each other, or in small groups. They may come to find that there is more than one effective way to solve a problem.
• Students provide feedback on the ideas of their peers. They will not only learn to communicate their own thinking, but to actively listen to the reasoning of others.
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Teaching Support for Collaborative Learning

As a teacher, here are some strategies for you to employ that will foster a cooperative environment for your math students:

• Observe students in their pairs or small group to make sure they understand the task at hand. Clarify any expectations when necessary.
• Monitor group routines and behaviours. Who works well together? Who doesn't? Create a dynamic that works for every student.
• Encourage students to discuss and consider the appropriateness, effectiveness, or accurateness of different tools, forms of measurement, or strategies.
• Make modifications and extensions for the students and groups who need them.
• Encourage individual responsibility in each of the students working in a group.
• Facilitate discussion, where student have an opportunity to discuss, share their ideas, and draw conclusions.

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Let Students Find Their Own Way

Remember, don't be afraid to let this approach take its course.

You may need to make on-the-spot decisions for what direction to lead the shared learning in, so that the students will best arrive at your intended destination. Through this approach, your students will learn actively, and feel a sense of accomplishment when they can use methods that allow them to reach conclusions themselves, and very likely, that concept will stick with them.

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