Task Cards helped my students rock their test on combining like terms. Let me explain- In my school we have a set aside time for reteach- giving students more time to show mastery on a concept that they don’t quite have when they take the first class formative assessment. I was working with a group of 7th grade students who were close to mastery, but not quite there yet. None of them had passed the Combining Like Terms test on the first go around. This group of students weren’t in my regular class, and this was the only time that I would work with this particular group. So, I had to make sure that the learning activities we did wouldn’t require a lot of explanation or routines needing to be set up.

Over the course of 4 days we had 47 minutes each day to get students to mastery with combining like terms. I needed activities that were engaging, hands on, and that would help them get both the conceptual understanding and the repetitions of good practice that they needed. On our final day working with this concept I brought out the task cards, and boy was I happy with how they worked for students.

When students walked in the room, they saw a task card at each desk. I quickly explained that we would be playing Scoot. Students would have 2 minutes to work on the task card at their desk, showing their work and recording their answer on the student record sheet. Then, we would switch desks and they would work on the next task card.

I also explained that each of their task cards had the solution on the back. They were expected to compare their solutions with those given when they completed each item. If they had a different solution than the answer key, they needed to figure out what went wrong and make the necessary adjustments. Click on the image below to download this easy to use student record sheet:

The directions ended with this quick pep talk. I reminded students

that if they got all the answers correct the first time, then that means that they already have a good understanding of this concept. However, if they got an answer wrong, that is where the learning takes place. By trying to figure out where they went wrong, they would be taking advantage of an opportunity to learn. And learning was our ultimate goal of the day. With that, I sent them on their way.

While students were playing Scoot, I noticed a high level of engagement. Students were on task, trying to simplify expressions, and then checking their answers and making adjustments. The incorporated movement of switching desks every two minutes kept things moving and kept work time more focused. As I circulated the room, I was careful to not give feedback on how students were doing. I know that sounds crazy, and it’s certainly different than my usual way of doing things, but I wanted to encourage students to really try to dig in and figure out where they were getting off track. As I watched students rework problems that they’d gotten wrong, I saw many “light bulb” moments. I was confident that they were working out the final kinks of misconceptions that were keeping them from mastery.

##### The proof is in the pudding

The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the assessment. At the close our class period, students took the second chance mastery test. This time, 26 out of 29 students scored an 80% or 100%, meeting their goal of mastery of this topic. Hip, hip, hooray!!

This experience was one that pushed me over the line into the “fully converted” camp with task cards. I became a huge cheerleader of them with my team. Now I am always looking to recruit new folks into the task card fan club! You can find the task cards I used for this activity here:

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