Why use mini debates?
So many students think math is about having a problem and just getting an answer. In truth, math is about thinking, analyzing other’s thinking and responding to think more deeply. When students are presented with math thinking, you can post great questions like:
What do you notice about these strategies?
What is your least favorite?
Can you add on to any of these strategies?
How would you solve it differently?
What connections do you see?
Which strategy do you think is not efficient?
In addition, the Standards for Mathematical Practice put a focus on the thinking processes of students. There is also some pretty strong research suggesting that students should be engaged in math talk for at least 60% of your math lesson. Giving students these tasks allows them to form their own thoughts, and then work with a team to defend their thinking. If you make it a regular part of your classroom routine (once a week or every other week) students will become more comfortable with math talk. This is also a wonderful test prep activity since the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments are heavy with problems in which students assess the reasonableness of statements given to them.
How long does this activity last?
Depending on the ability level of your students, each individual activity can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
How and when do you use this problem type in class?
There are many ways you can use this activity:
Fast finisher activity
Intervention block activity
Small group work
Homework for students
Gifted and talented small groups
Whole class activity
Parent volunteers can work one on one
Promoting writing and talk in math
These may be appropriate for first graders who are seeing relationship between two digit numbers, all the way up to struggling third graders.