Friday, June 10, 2016

My Favorite No

"My Favorite No" is a low-stakes, quick activity that has several benefits for student learning. Here's how it works.

  • The teacher presents a problem to the class
  • The students solve the problem to the best of their ability on a note card
  • The teacher collects all note cards
  • The teacher sorts the cards into two piles - one for "no" or incorrect answers and one for "yes" or correct answers
  • The teacher chooses one or two of his/her "favorite" no's and displays them using a doc cam
  • The class discusses the "no" and what mistake(s) was/were made
    • First ask students what was done correctly
    • Then ask what mistake(s) was/were made
  • Note: students should not put their names on the cards
  • Note: the teacher may copy the students work onto a note card under the doc cam - doing so brings more anonymity to the activity by hiding handwriting, color pen, etc.
Watch this video to see how Leah Alcala uses "My Favorite No" with her students.

The "My Favorite No" is a great way to begin a class or could be used as a check for understanding activity. With some practice it could be used on the fly when a teacher feels the need to see how the students are doing. However, carefully selected questions will reveal more student misconceptions. 

Here are some of the benefits that I see of using this strategy.
  • It allows the teacher to quickly check for understanding and misconceptions. Quickly gathering this information is a vital part of the learning process. The information that is revealed will help the teacher where to go next.
  • "My Favorite No" encourages students to use the language of mathematics. As students discuss the solution the teacher will ask them to support their claim with what they are seeing using precise language in order to clearly state their claim.
  • The process demonstrates the value of mistakes. As in life, mistakes in math can lead to improved understanding and are vital to the learning process. Mistakes should be valued as opportunities to learn and gain insights. "My Favorite No" is one piece of building this atmosphere in the classroom.
  • Students will engage in multiple Student Mathematical Practices during the "My Favorite No" activity. They will be critiquing the reasoning of others as well make viable arguments (SMP 3). While doing this they will attend to precision, both in calculation and in defending their statements using mathematical language (SMP 6).
As I watched the video I made one observation. During discussion I would ask students to turn and discuss what they see with a shoulder partner thus engaging more students in conversation about the problem. 

What modifications would you make? Leave your ideas in the comments.