“Look at her go! Fast as lightning! Speed! This should be against the law it’s so fast!”
That’s Julie’s play-by-play commentary as one of her classmates solves a two-step equation using algebra balance scales from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.
Disclaimer: This activity demonstrates procedural understanding, however it is a skill that requires practice.
The energy level went through the roof when I suggested the students make screencasts as they play the roles of mathlete and commentator. These sixth grade advanced math students were already familiar with Screencast-O-Matic, a free download, from a previous lesson so the activity was a breeze.
If you’ve never done a Mathlete commentary with your class, I brainstormed a list of sporting events and asked them to imagine hearing the commentary: golf, boxing, poker, football, soccer, etc. I suppose I should have had audio recordings available, but they quickly got the idea.
I then had them work with a partner of their choice since they would feel most comfortable playing the role with a friend. The criteria was simple: make one video with two problems; each person takes a turn solving the problem while the other acts as commentator. There were two groups of three so they obviously had to solve three problems in one video.
The kids did a fabulous job. We watched them over the next few days, a nice break from the normal routine. A few students were more comfortable playing a traditional role instead of “hamming it up”, but that’s ok. Everyone was talking math!