3 Acts: Participation Quiz with Stacking Cups

I had a great block day (1.5 hr classes) today with both of my Precalculus classes because, via Tina’s Goal-Setting blog post, I found Sam’s Participation quizzes from years ago. The stacking cups video was created by Andrew Stadel, so I’ll only link to the 101qs I hadn’t read that post[1], but I loved the idea. In the comments, Julie had mentioned trying this out with Google Docs, and since I like Google things way better than my Smart-board[2], I decided to try this out. I found out that it works best with Google drawings, because you can move text-boxes around anywhere you want. I don’t know if the other teacher did this, but instead of putting the names “blue group”, “red group”, etc. up on the board, I just made the rectangle match the color of the group. The best thing about using Google was I could collaborate with myself: I brought my laptop to school and so I could enter comments either from the computer at the front of the room (not very often) or from my laptop closer to the action.


We did a typical bare-bones math warm-up (is that a bad idea?). After the warm-up, I put the rules (copies straight from Sam’s post) up on the power-point:

  1. Everyone in the group must participate equally. There isn’t a leader, or the same person leading the show. The voices are shared.
  2. Students should not work too quickly. If they work simply to finish the sheet, without any other consideration, they aren’t doing it right.
  3. No one moves on until everyone understands. This isn’t about everyone having the same thing written down — but everyone has to know why.
  4. Students should think out loud. Students should check in with each other. Students should ask questions of one another.

Then I assigned groups, explained “Participation Quizzes“, showed the cup-stacking video, and said “GO!”

Here’s the result of me walking around, listening to groups, and recording what I heard/saw for 1st period and 7th period Precalculus:

1st Pd Participation Quiz -- Stacking Cups (1)

7th Pd Participation Quiz -- Stacking Cups (1)

Here’s a link to my template–feel free to make a copy of it and steal it!

*The line across the 7th period groups were before and after we discussed our answers–we then did a sequel. Here are the sequel questions I used to keep them going:

  1. What if we started with 10 blue cups and 1 white cup?
  2. How many cups does it take to reach Mr. Newman’s stool?
  3. You come up with two good questions.

When I did Robert Kaplinsky’s In-n-Out burger, he left a great comment about “breadth vs depth” of sequel questions. That really encouraged me to come up with a few deeper questions. Sort of “think about this in another way” (depth) rather than “do this similar problem and let’s make sure you can apply the skills you learned again” (breadth).

I was really impressed with how well the students started doing group work. The constantly changing board up front gave them ideas for how to better work together, and yet, it wasn’t too distracting.

Thanks to all the MTBoS members who helped shape this lesson–I’ve become a 100000% better teacher from reading you guys!

[1] I should probably stop what I’m doing and go back and read all of Sam’s posts… I even stole his way of making footnotes in blog posts!

[2] And I only have a smart-board in one of the two math classrooms in which I teach Precalculus.

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