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The mistake game+countdown timer=board meeting gold

October 11, 2011

This year, I’ve been trying even more to pull back and let students run board meetings, rather than having me jump in and push every point to its final conclusion with a rapid fire set of questions from me. Also, I’ve decided to reduce the size of my groups to 3 from 4, and this has made board meetings drag on a bit longer than usual, as six groups, rather than 4 or 5 need to present their findings/problem, and often things can seem rather repetitive, as I occasionally to assign multiple groups the same problem.

To combat that, I’ve stated doing two things. First, I use Kelly O’Shea’s mistake game as much as possible during board meetings. I began by pitching this as a bit of a competitive game, and students started trying to make subtle and barely noticeable errors (like leaving off units or negative signs midway through a calculation) in the hopes of getting their mistake through the discussion. I quickly realized this didn’t enhance the learning, and so I followed Kelly’s advice a bit more closely, and encouraged them to make substantial mistakes that one would make while learning these ideas, and to defend those mistakes in discussion, with the goal not of getting the mistake though, but instead, of increasing their peer’s learning by forcing their peers to help someone else overcome these mistakes.

The second thing I did to speed things up a bit was bring out the countdown timer. I gave every group 3 minutes to practice their presentation, and then projected and started the timer so that students could see it running while they were presenting. Again, I’m not sure I’ll do this all the time, but I think it added a bit of focus to the discussion that kept us from getting too far off track. Overall, I think it’s one of the best whiteboarding sessions I’ve had.

But don’t take my word for it-here’s the video of the discussion. If you’ve wanted to see how the mistake game works out in real life, here’s my take on it. There are some great moments where students who don’t want to make mistakes really have to work to sell their mistakes to the class, and you see them and the class working through many of the classical misconceptions of Newton’s laws. I’d love any feedback you might have about how to improve these discussions.

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