A Team is the “SUM” of its Parts

Can passive team members become active? Can we find ways to insure that our study team members contribute equally and build confidence with this skill? These are some of the questions that my TRC team has been exploring this year. By implementing the GAME OF SUMS in my classroom, I think I have found one small way to model the practice of teammates contributing to a common goal. This game was adapted from one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah VanDerWerf. Since using her simple template, I have developed my own library of about 30 games so far this year – and they are all related to skills that we explore in CCG lessons. I use the Games often for warmups and review, and they continue to engage and develop my students.

A GAME OF SUMS begins with a template created for four people. There are four related problems on the template, and each person solves their own problem. The answers are then added together and the sum of the answers is placed in the middle of the page. When the teacher comes to check the sum, she confirms or denies the sum. If the sum is denied, the team must hunker down to find the error and fix their sum. Below are a few examples of games I have created.

When I use the game as a starter, the desks get cleared, the game goes in the middle on a clipboard, and students begin to reach in to do their part! It represents a lot of what we expect teamwork to look like. During the task, everyone is doing their part and practicing a skill without completely relying on others and without leading others, which some team members tend to do during normal lessons. Each person is experiencing an authentic practice opportunity. If a student is rusty or unsure on the skill, they may ask for help from their teammates. When the sum is correct, it is an opportunity for formative assessment. When the sum is incorrect, I see individuals analyzing their work to seek errors and the team comes together to problem-solve. They talk, they ask questions, they realize and admit when they are struggling with a skill and they get immediate help from teammates and learn from mistakes. This setting also fosters the use of vocabulary and technique.

I encourage teachers to try this just once, and you may become a fan like me!

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