Using Percentages to Drive Decisions




Tom Marker, Olentangy Orange Middle School, Ohio, USA. 



Often teachers default to pieces of pizza or sales and discounts to introduce percentages. However, in our class we often start a unit with a discovery activity or a notice and wonder. I do this as the “hook” similar to a three act math task. We centre our thoughts around a situation and begin to ask questions and bring up things that the story or the graphic has led us to think about.



Appreciate Differences  



We have been working through percentage based problems for quite some time. Students have been making connections with previously taught concepts (ratio tables, equivalent fractions, parts vs whole, etc.). We’re trying to find new and innovative ways to apply percentages, as well as appreciating where they come up in different arenas.



Situation Posed:

  • The hope is that we return from hybrid and are all together in the classroom again (we currently have half of the student population each day). What are the pros and cons of this situation? How would this impact your life? Others’ lives? The school community?
    • Students eventually started tying in percentages and the need for more staffing





 How Do We Transport



We, as a group, agreed that transporting students to and from schools could pose the largest risk. From there, we looked at the current percentage of students walking, getting dropped off and the ones needed school transportation. We basically sampled our current class numbers and then scaled that up to meet the entire middle school population. Students were simply given the smaller amounts (based on my four sections of class numbers) and asked to research what that means for the school.



Personal "Flair" 



Using the Wipebook charts, each group was asked to articulate their understanding through pictures, charts, tables, graphs, and any other means that made sense to them. The goal was to have their personal learning style and personal communication styles coming out in their displays on the Wipebooks.






 Fail, Ask Why, Reflect, Decide



We continued by allowing students to have a gallery walk to see what other groups decided was the most efficient way to solve the problem. The “creators” would answer questions and work to “defend” their method. Although not one method was technically “better,” there were obviously more efficient methods. The Wipebooks allowed us to display the work, as well as quickly transition to another question or to another class period. Given the current situation surrounding the pandemic, this allowed our students the opportunity to move around and interact in small time frames. We could use different colours to add comments to the different flipcharts and then the students could reflect on the comments left by others. I often use the hashtag “Sharpen the Pencil,” but the more I’ve used the flipcharts and the more I’ve worked with students in their ability to appreciate and learn from mistakes, the more I’ve transitioned to the idea of adding colour, crossing out mistakes, but leaving them their for future reflections. The Wipebook flipcharts provide the opportunity to grow through mistakes and display “productive struggle.”






My notice and wonder activities have become more hands on and students are finally starting to collaborate more often. I also use these for small group instruction and with virtual learning by placing them behind me for the online students to see different ways of thinking.






We also worked on a battery life activity because I explained my frustration with the students inability to show up to school with a charged Chromebook. They said, “Mr. Marker, it’s not that serious.” To which I responded, “Let’s investigate just how serious this issue is.”



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