Neo Discussions in Math-Yes Please!
I know English teachers have been using NEO discussions for a couple years, but as a Math teacher discussion assignments in NEO were new to me. I have found using NEO discussions has allowed me to view the work of each student in one screen, grade quickly without distractions , and give individualized feedback. Students are given feedback on their work, they offer constructive feedback to others, and they revise their work based on the critiques of peers.
The math classroom has been undergoing many transformations with the implementation of Common Core Standards. Math teachers at each grade level have a new set of content standards AND a set of 8 Mathematical Practice standards. One of the critical components in any math class is Math Practice 3 “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.” I use NEO discussions to allow my students to write, critique, receive feedback, and revise their Problem of the Week.
A Problem of the Week is a mathematical situation that takes perseverance, logic, precision, and revision to solve. Students are introduced to the problem in class, given time to brainstorm about strategies for solving, find solutions in and out of class, and complete a write-up of their process, solution, and reflection. Here is an example from this Fall
Initially, students wrote drafts of their solutions in Neo discussions. Next, each student read and gave constructive, specific feedback, suggesting ways to strengthen the arguments of three classmates. Finally, students read, analyzed, and adopted the ideas of their peers into their final write up.
It was obvious from the final work submitted that students created stronger viable arguments after incorporating the feedback of their peers. By making the critique process public in NEO discussions, all students were able to view the write ups and suggestions of their classmates. I overheard students commenting on what they should add to their own documents, or complementing the work of others.
As a teacher, grading in NEO discussions is a breeze. The work of each student, including the feedback they have provided to others, is conveniently on one screen.
Many teachers do not like to assign Problems of the Week because they take “forever” to grade. Using Neo Discussions I was able to cut that time down to under a minute per student. Grading is fast and efficient because student work is typed (avoiding handwriting and organizational time suckers), revised after peer review, and teacher comments can be typed directly. The interface in Neo Discussions allows for easy movement between students with a click of an arrow. Additionally, I am able to determine if the assignment was on time.
Overall, using NEO Discussions in Math has been a positive addition to my classroom. The students benefit because they are engaging in Math Practice 3 in a real and relevant way with high-level complex mathematics. I benefit because students are experiencing greater success with the curriculum, and grading/feedback is quick and efficient.