“When will we ever use this in real life?”
This is the common question that many teachers hear – and my 7th grade Pre-Algebra class is no exception. However, in my classroom, I put the ball back into the students’ court and challenge them to find the answer for me.
As teachers, we know that students need to learn concepts as building blocks to more advanced concepts for their school career. But for students, that is a frustrating answer to hear. One of my answers to alleviate that frustration, and to also give students a deeper understanding of the concept, is to issue a challenge. I challenge the students to create a real-world problem on any of the concepts we study in class.
The tool that connects the students’ work and provides an authentic audience is Instagram. I chose to use Instagram because it has become a highly used social media tool and therefore a great place to both showcase and engage students. Almost all of my students already know how it works and the majority of them have their own accounts, so its easy for them to dive in. In my classroom, I provide a number of ways for students to earn back points they may have lost on formal assessments throughout the year. Here are the nuts and bolts of how it works:
- Students are given the option to create a real world problem involving a math concept that we work with in class.
- They write a draft of the word problem on their own and present it to me.
- We sit down together and discuss the problem, and I make suggestions on ways to improve it.
- They submit the final draft to me, along with a creative photograph that will be used for their Instagram post.
- I post their final Instagram problem on our class account @smithmath and on our school’s course management system.
The creator of the Instagram problem is given a full free homework submission which may, in some cases, make up for a missed/forgotten assignment. Any of the students who attempt answering the problem on either our course management system or on Instagram itself will earn class participation points, measured using Class Dojo. Class Dojo is a classroom management iOS app that provides and easy way to measure and reward behavior.
The main takeaways from using these Instagram problems are (1) increased engagement in math concepts outside of class time, (2) deeper learning associated with the creation of difficult word problems created by students, and (3) an opportunity for creative and imaginative ideas. I’ve found that students find it difficult to create problems, even on concepts they fully understand. But after they’ve created one, they have a deeper understanding of the concept and are able to more effectively apply the concept in formal assessment.
@SmithMath Instagram: https://instagram.com/smithmath
Class Dojo: https://www.classdojo.com/