Math is a Team Activity

Math is a Team Activity

Math has been that subject where we can put a worksheet in front of a student and say "do this and if you need help, look at the example on the page or on the board."  

I don’t know about you but when I come across a problem, regardless of what type of problem,  I like to talk it out. I like to hear other people's thoughts, I like to see examples, I like to talk through examples, I like to work together and come up with a solution. We need to allow students to do that in math!

NCTM and CCSS state very clearly that to be a good at math a student needs to develop these math practices:

  • make sense of a problem
  • persevere to solve it
  • reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

The Fortune 500 business leaders have listed these as the top 21st Century Skills they are looking for in an employee:

Both the math practices and the 21st Century Skills can be accomplished only by allowing students to work together in math.

When thinking about students working together here are some things to consider when grouping students.

Types of Grouping: 

Student Chosen Groups –

  • Pros: positive attitudes towards each other – higher outcomes – less planning
  • Cons: less diversity – some students not selected – off task talking

Random Educator Grouping –

  • Pros: less planning – group diversity – builds communication skills
  • Cons: negative attitude about selection – lower group cohesion

Educator Selected Academics –

  • Pros: organized based on needs, improves depth of learning
  • Cons: widens achievement gaps, planning, labeling

Once groups are selected make sure students have roles:

Group Facilitator - makes sure everyone has a turn and keeps students on task

Recorder - records information, takes notes, asks for clarification if necessary

Reporter - shares information at the end

Material Manager - picks up, distributes, collects, turns in and puts away materials.

Try out these great problem solving questions with your students and let us know how it goes.

1st - 2nd Grade Problem:  A group of students are standing in a circle. Every student faces someone across the circle. The students count off in order, starting with the number 1. Student 2 stands across from Student 10. How many students are in the circle? 

3rd - 4th Grade Problem: Can you figure out the start number?

5th - 6th Grade Problem: Use the clues to determine the number on the other side of each card. What are the numbers?


  1. The numbers are 5 consecutive numbers between 60 and 70
  2. The number on the circle has 7 factors
  3. The even multiple of 17 has no card on its left
  4. The number on the rectangle has 3 as a factor.
  5. Between 2 cards is a prime number with a digit sum greater than 10.