Flip Your Flop

Ever wonder what to do when a student is trying to work on a problem-solving task and appears to be stuck? Sometimes, it’s that glassy-eyed stare into space; other times it’s out-and-out frustration which may be witnessed by crumpling paper or worse, refusing to work.

As teachers, we feel for these students (and us, at times). So, as part of the TRC group, “Getting Unstuck,” we are investigating how to help students recognize when they are stuck and provide them with a toolkit to help them get unstuck. The “stuckiness” (is that a word?) may be due to emotional roots (sweaty hands, increased heart rate) or mathematical ones (where do I start?, this problem is too difficult; I can’t do math).

My own interest in this area stems from observing students, both those who can successfully get unstuck and those who struggle.

Yes, my students understand the importance of having a growth mindset, but that alone is not sufficient. We are on the path, but there are still many twists and turns along the way. Here is one turn:

In early October, after grading the first set of individual assessments and handing them back to students, I introduced Flip Your Flop (which comes from http://www.keepemthinking.com and is a free download from Teachers Pay Teachers). For this activity, students selected one problem (or part of a problem) in which they made a mistake. They each received a pair of paper flip flops and on the left, described the mistake while on the right, wrote about what they could have done differently.

What I noticed was that, for the most part, the mistakes were: omitting parts of a question, computation mistakes (+, – , *, /) and careful reading of a problem.

I am hoping that the act of writing will help as well as the fact that the board has created interest in reading what others have written since each day when entering the classroom, students walk by the board.

Here is what some students had to say about the board:

“I think it is a good way to show a growth mindset. I like the board because we can see that everyone makes mistakes, not just me.”

“I like that you can see everyone’s mistakes and how they fixed them.

“I enjoy having the board cause it looks cool and reminds me to try.”

“I like that we can see the board – it’s in a good spot.”

Our goal is to continue making flip flops (some of which I would actually like to wear) throughout the year.



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