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Less Like Work

Students in Ms. Zyzanski’s 3rd grade classroom were doing performance math tasks last week, a concept that makes math seems a lot more like fun and less like work. 

In small groups, students collaborated on solving math word problems.  “It really helps them to think critically and apply math skills to actual life situations,” said Ms. Zyzanski.  It’s a concept that is utilized in Middle School classroom as well and stresses the importance of ‘soft skills’ often lacking in the curriculum of classrooms across the country.  “They learn the value of cooperation and teamwork and develop the ability to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in the last nine weeks,” explained Ms. Zyzanski.

three girls in chairs

Vivian Castillo, Sophia Santos and Marie Janeski enjoy working together in a very comfy corner!

In each group opinions varied on how well students adapt to the performance task environment and exactly why they are doing it.

Both Evelyn Cranor and Diana Ojeda agree that they personally would rather work independently, but their solution to making the performance task work for them is nothing short of genius.  “We read the problems quietly and come up with answers ourselves,” said Evelyn.  “When we finish, we exchange our answers and see if we both came up with the same answer,” added Diana.  Indeed, the class as a whole uses the same procedure when the problems have been complete.  “If their answers are not the same, they discuss them and then present the chosen answer to the class,” said Ms. Zyanski.  “More often than not the answers are correct.  If they are wrong, students are more accepting of being corrected by a classmate,” she added.  Peer acknowledgement plays an important role in the performance math tasks.  

two girls at desks

                                                                                       Evelyn Cranor and Diana Ojeza                                                                                            

At the table of Dillon Webb, Elijah Injac and Tyler Williams, the work being done may have been several decibels louder than some groups, but no less successful.  All three enjoy working together to solve the problems.  “It’s easier doing the problems together,” said Dillon and he was able to explain why.  “Each person might know one thing better and then they can teach you.”  His understanding of why the class is working in this manner illustrates the honesty, even if inaccurate, typical of a third grader.  “Mr. Eckart, he’s our Principal, and he comes in to make sure we’re working so that our teacher won’t get kicked out,” he explained.  “He makes sure we’re really working and then we get to keep our teacher!” 

boys at table

Dillon Webb, Elijah Injack and Tyler Williams enjoy the performance task and Ms. Zysanski!

Ms. Zysanski will be pleased by the enthusiastic seal of approval from her students.  She is definitely pleased with the progress students are making using the small group performance task model.  While math is perfectly suited to this style of learning, Ms. Zysanski sees it at being beneficial in Science as well moving forward. 

From aligning curriculum to aligning the very way students learn is a huge bright spot in Hanover schools and Ms. Zyzanski and her students are just one shining example of collaboration and cooperation.

two boys studying

Collaboration in action!