I look for real reasons for why we use math. Students can spot BS from a mile away, probably because it STINKS! A few years ago, I realized that a spreadsheet was a great way to explore order of operations. We have to tell technology how we want it to process numbers. If we don’t, technology defaults to the basic rules of math, order of operations.
While reading Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindset (if you haven’t read it, get a copy RIGHT NOW!), Alice Keeler and I started chatting on Twitter. Alice was working on a spreadsheet activity and asked me to collaborate with her. I realized it was the perfect platform for a student directed lesson (I used to guide the exploration) on order of ops using Alice’s inspiration. This is what was born.
Students begin with some research on equations and expressions, inserting images or typing their own examples. There is also a place where students draw a conclusion from their research. Communication and collaboration is encouraged.
Then it’s time to play a game. One student writes an expression in words. Their partner calculates by hand and enters their guess. Then we teach a spreadsheet skill (Alice would say Computer Apps class isn’t needed, we can embed it in content – I agree!) This is a basic introduction to entering a function using the =. If your partner calculated correctly, they get a point, if not the first person does. The spreadsheet tally’s the points to see who wins. The 2nd person has to figure out how the spreadsheet would calculate and then calculate by hand the same way.
The sad part, I didn’t get to use this lesson this year because of the late roll out of Chromebooks. I may put it in Google Classroom as a warm-up one day.
Feel free to use this but please give me feedback. It makes my day when people use my stuff!
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