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Mastering Partner Work in the Math Classroom: 3 Proven Strategies for Success
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Mastering Partner Work in the Math Classroom: 3 Proven Strategies for Success

Let me guess... Your math students are always begging to work with a partner, but just 10 minutes into the lesson you have students who are copying their partner, stuck in indecision, or just catching each other up on the latest gossip?

We've all been there! But fear not, because today, we're sharing three effective strategies that will help you tackle these common partner problems head-on.

1. Rotate Partners Often (and include yourself in the rotation)

One of the most effective ways to keep students engaged in partner work is by constantly switching up their pairs.

In a previous blog post, we discussed the benefits of switching partners mid-class, and here's how you can make it even more engaging: become a partner option yourself!

  • Arrange pairs of desks throughout your classroom and station yourself at one of them. Invite students who may need additional assistance to work with you.
  • Once you have your partner(s), set a timer for a short duration, say 10 minutes.
  • When the timer goes off, have students rotate to the next partner.
  • The student who was the most off-task during the first round automatically becomes your partner for the next round!

This not only keeps everyone on their toes but also provides struggling students with the support they need.

2. Embrace Mathematical Partner Roles

When I first started making partner work part of our every day routine, I quickly learned that each student needed to have a mathematical responsibility. 

"Mathematical" being the key here. Having a "time-keeper" or "recorder" is great, but it doesn't ensure that all students are taking ownership of their learning.

Opt for activities where each partner receives specific math problems to solve, creating a situation where they must contribute mathematically in order to complete the game or assignment. This approach prevents mindless copying and encourages genuine collaboration.

You can find no-prep partner activity packs here, with mathematical responsibility built into each game!

3. Challenge the Class as Your Partner

Sometimes, a little friendly competition can go a long way in boosting student engagement.

Turn partner activities into a challenge between you and the entire class. For example, you can use games like "Tic-Tac-Toe!" where students are X's & you're O's, or "Build the Zombie" where they race to solve the puzzle before you. If 70% or more of the class gets the answer correct, they can move forward in the game.

(This approach works particularly well during after-school tutorials or when students need additional independent practice with guidance. It allows students to witness your problem-solving skills while reinforcing their own independent learning.)

Incorporate these three strategies into your math classroom, and you'll find that partner work becomes a more effective and engaging tool for student learning. Say goodbye to copying, indecision, and off-topic conversations, and hello to collaborative and productive math sessions!

Shop print-and-go Partner Activity Packs HERE!

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