Going Backward to Move Forward

--Originally published at Flipped Learning

One of the challenges in teaching a college level math class is helping the students understand the pace in which the course is taught. Unlike high school math class that meet every day and typically go over one lesson per day, the college rigor includes multiple lessons during class because we meet only twice per week. This adjustment for students can be demanding and daunting. This week in math class, I was quickly reminded of one of the main reasons I choose Flipped Learning. 

While attempting to tackle solving equations - one-step, multi-step,variables on both sides, distributive property - several students quickly became confused. While I can verify they watched the video lessons I provided and took notes, their ability to demonstrate an understanding of solving equations on our practices sets was lacking. Some of the basic concepts and skills to solving algebraic equations had not been clearly established. It didn't take long for me to realize, we needed to go back to the basics.

What did we do? We paused, took a step backwards, and allowed the dynamics of a Flipped Learning environment come the aid of every student. The students that had already mastered solving algebraic equations became my teaching assistants. I asked them to be the leaders of the small groups I put together to help others understand the process of isolating a variable. While I was still going to go over some of the basics with the whole class, these leaders would become instrumental in allowing me to meet everyone where they were at. Likewise, the students that hadn't quite figured out the steps yet would be exposed to the thoughts and ideas from classmates. Perhaps there was something I wasn't saying or a different way of thinking that would trigger the light bulb. 

While many classrooms can't afford the luxury to pause and rewind, my Flipped Learning environment afforded my students the ability to go back and master a crucial element to learning math. By having video lessons ready for each class, my students could review the content a second time and come to class prepared to tackle this essential step in learning. An extra day scheduled for exam review could easily be replaced by a day of collaboration and learning together. 

To my surprise, all of the students were thankful for the opportunity to go backward - to make sure they fully understood the concept before moving on. Not only could we develop the skill set for solving algebraic equations, we also began to contextualize story problems to help them see and understand how this math would related to their programs of study. Ironically, the discussions became rich and powerful as students began sharing how concepts of math fit into their programs. Likewise, as each leader student began to share his/her ideas for solving, others felt empowered to ask questions and seek advice on why or how they solved a problem. The atmosphere became impassioned with collaboration, acceptance, and encouragement.

All because I decided it was time to take a step backward! #BeTheONE

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