Group Work in Maths

Why group Work?

By introducing Group activities to your classroom or even rearranging your desks into groups, you are giving your students an entirely different insight into learning.

Group work allows students to gain an understanding and experience into how tasks are completed in the work place. It also gives students a chance to learn and develop important skills; communication, ability to listen, question other thinking, persuade, respect the opinions of others and share ideas.

Types of Group Work.

Group Work is often thought of as a method of having students work together to create a project or collective piece of work, where each student has contributed equally.

In practice this very rarely works, with some students often taking the lead, and others happy to sit there and enjoy the ride. Group Work does not have to involve projects or huge collaborative pieces of work. It could be that you just have your students working in groups for a starter activity or a single task during a lesson.

Breaking into Groups:

Students can be sat in Groups but still work independently. By doing this students can take advantage of some of the skills that can be developed using group work such as sharing ideas, communication and questioning and thinking.

This can often be one of the difficult parts of organising a group activity. Firstly you need to determine how you want your groups organised and ask yourself what you are hoping each student will gain from working in a group. This will depend upon the class and the activity that is taking place.

Pairs – Do you want a high achiever with a less able student to act as a mentor. Or pair together students of similar ability and differentiate the tasks for each pair.

Using pairs of cards is a great way of dividing a class into pairs, whilst still giving you control over who is paired with who (or to keep apart students you don’t want to be paired together). Below are a few ideas:

1. Create a class set of cards each containing a question. This needs to be done so that each answer is repeated. Students are given a card and work out the answer to the question, they must then find their partner who has the same answer as them. This is then their partner for the lesson. Alternative idea – Cut subject/topic related pictures in half to be used in place of cards. Students have to match their half up with a class mates to form the picture. There can then be a task related to this such as: ENGLISH – each partner needs to write a descriptive piece on their complete picture. GEOGRAPHY – cut countries in half and students have to find their country on a world map and research certain information about it.

Groups of 3 or more (My favourite is 3 for a collaborative group task, usually find with 4 that a student can often be left with very little to do). Again how do you want the groups to be split, each member of the group being of similar ability or each group being mixed. Maybe you just want to change the seating plan and can use a group activity to do so.

1. Jigsaw – Similar to above, assign each group a problem/puzzle (maths), a piece of art (Visual Art) or an animal (science), making sure each can be represented visually usually on a piece of A4 paper. Print each one out and cut into the desired number of pieces (3 if you want groups of 3, 4 for groups of 4 etc). Hand these out to the students as they enter the room, where they then have to organise themselves into their groups and complete a task based on their image/problem/puzzle. By making each groups jigsaw different it allows you to pick and choose which students go together (differentiation) or which students you keep apart by giving them each pieces of a different image/problem/puzzle.

2. Burgers – Yes Burgers! This is a fun way for students to split themselves into groups. To split your class into groups of 4 the link is here. Or groups of 3 click here. This powerpoint slide may also be helpful to have on the board as the students come in! The cards in the links need to be cut out and handed to each student as they enter the room, each group needs to have a bun, a burger and a condiment (or 2 condiments if in groups of 4). Students are allowed a bit more freedom here when choosing their groups though you can still have a say in how the groups are made. For example if you want a high ability student in each group just hand them each a bun or burger card. Likewise if you want to split up certain students hand them each a bun or burger card since each group requires only one of each.

3. Sweets – Easy one, have a bag of mixed lollies equal to the number of required members of each group. As the students come in, they each choose a lolly a at random and have to sit with others who have the same lolly as them. Simple.