Amid cranking up the volume on my Algebra II curriculum, I changed the way we did warm ups. Instead of some exercise related to the lesson, I posted a daily challenge from Estimation180. I organized their progression a bit. I was worried the idea would get old after a while, but every day without fail I have no trouble getting people to participate in the daily guess. Low barrier to entry is a wonderful idea.

Having made it to Day 71, I felt the students were ready to trade places with Mr. Stadel. Early on, I knew I wanted the students to design their own tasks, but I didn't have a time table. After fiddling with the curriculum progression, I found two days last week to build our Estimation Wall. We would have 140 minutes to design and build this thing (90 minute block day plus 50 minute Friday).

Expectations

On December 4 I assigned the task. By December 6 the students had to submit an idea they would post on the Estimation Wall. We discussed the general format of an Estimation180 task, how to obscure the answer, and how to develop ideas that stack on one another. Students were required to design two tasks and supply the answers. Ideally, the tasks should be linked (similar to Day 41 through 45).

Estimation Wall idea submissions.

Estimation Wall idea submissions.

Production took place December 11 and 13. Students had two options for getting pictures. They could take the picture at home on their phone and submit it via e-mail (to the dummy gmail account I use for the iPads), or bring the items for their task to class on December 11 and use the class iPads to take pictures. I wanted to use card stock to mount the pictures, so students brought in $1 for the fancy paper.

Remember how I talked about hoarding office supplies and getting a printer in the room? The Estimation Wall is the payoff activity for that investment. Scissors, glue, colored paper, iPads, and the ability to print color pictures all right there in the room. The construction process was an unholy mess, and yet beautiful with how easy it all came together. Activities earlier in the year had handled all the technology hurdles. I flipped the switch on the printer and the kids were off on their own without my help.

Construction

The students did a FANTASTIC job with the activity. Lots of creative ideas and no one refused to participate. The key to the project was where we were going to install it. An enterprising Chemistry teacher gave me the answer. Upstairs they're constructing a periodic table on our neglected lockers.

A similar bank of neglected lockers sits outside my room and after asking permission, that was that. Students would mount the question on the front of the locker and put the answer inside. The lockers are in the three rows. Task 1 goes on Row 1, Task 2 on Row 2 and Row 3 is left blank.

The trash generated by this was crazy. Had you walked in during the process it would've looked like chaos. But everyone was on task from start to finish. Most students had their pictures mounted by the end of the 90 minute period. During the 50 minute period students taped their pictures to the lockers or finished up their tasks as necessary. If they finished early, they had the review for the final to start.

Final Thoughts

Here's a shot of the full installation and a close up of a couple tasks.

On the surface, this doesn't look like Algebra II material or something that high school students should be doing (a waste a time some might say). But if you think about how hard it is to design a well done math task, these students got a great lesson in it. Will they understand my question? Did I give away the answer? Should I take a better photo? Would someone argue with my answer? It's great exposure. And considering I could've punted and just had them work on the review for the final instead, I think our class time was much better spent. Plus, the school has a cool new art installation. Less than an hour after the wall was completed, I watched a dozen random students wander by and just stop, drawn in by the lure of the Estimation Wall.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon