Speed Demons, Katamari and Discussions

The biggest takeaway for me was how exceedingly careful they are with people talking to the whole room. First of all, in classes that are 2 hours a day, full group discussions are always 10 minutes or less. Secondly, when students are talking to the room it is always students that Bowen and Darryl have preselected to present a specific idea they have already thought about. They never ask for hands, and they never cold-call. This means they already know more or less what the students are going to say. Thirdly, they have a distinction between students who try to burn through the work (“speed demons”) and students who work slowly enough to receive the gifts each question has to offer (“katamari,” because they pick things up as they roll along) – and the students who are asked to present an idea to the class are only katamari! Fourthly, a group discussion is only ever about a problem that everybody has already had a chance to think about – and even then, never about a problem for which everybody has come to the same conclusion the same way. Fifthly, in terms of selecting which ideas to have students present to the class, they concentrate on ideas that are nonstandard, or particularly visual, or both (rather than standard and/or algebraic).

From Ben Blum-Smith. Some of these standards, I think, break down in the face of a full-year k-12 classroom. (Less planning time, fewer students so less control over group dynamics, etc.) Still, I’m pretty enthusiastic about a lot of these ideas and the whole post has more goodies.

One thought on “Speed Demons, Katamari and Discussions

  1. I really like the idea of preselecting those who have had excellent insights into questions that the class is working on. In my practice, I have found that most of the time students are happy to get up and share with a bit of encouragement around their solution (as long as the atmosphere of the class is equally as accepting – this falls under your group dynamics concern, I think).

    When it comes to comment five, I suppose my preference would be to select students who can make the leap from visual to algebraic, or capture the problem in a non-standard algebraic way, rather than those who too heavily focus on non-standard visual or simply visual. Of course, this depends on the level of mathematics I want to accomplish – but usual end-goal for me would be connecting visual to algebraic.

    Nice find!


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