Jigsaw Group Activity

My Pre-Calc 11 class just finished up with a unit on transformations of functions, and I tried out a jigsaw group learning activity for two periods — let’s see what happened!

My rationale was pretty straightforward: once the students had been introduced to transformations, the unit plan had 5 lessons where we took each type of function we already knew (quadratic, square root, semicircle, power (monomial), and absolute value) and graphed transformed versions of that function. Yawn! Instead of taking a bunch of time and lecturing through each example, I figured that we could take a bit more time to properly understand the basics of transformations, then have the students teach each other about each function.

I broke up each class into groups of experts who took a class to study a particular function and its transformations, then we made the jigsaw transformation into the learning groups with each expert dividing into a different group. Each expert had about 20 minutes to explain their function and do a few examples with their group, while I wandered around supervising and offering help here and there.

My initial response to the activity was favourable; while there were a few points of confusion that I helped clear up, the students were very engaged overall and really enjoyed the opportunity to actually talk about math in a structured way. Interestingly, my Period 5 class approached the whole thing with a pretty positive outlook and it worked well for them; my Period 7 class complained a bit more (“Mister, why don’t you just teach like you’re supposed to?”) but mostly came around to understand the value of the activity.

Here are the responses (names removed) when I surveyed my P5 class after the test for that unit. I ask both about their experiences with the jigsaw activity and their self-assessment of their test performance.

As you can see, there is varied feedback as well as suggestions for improvement which I will take into account for next year. The class averages for this unit test were not significantly higher or lower than previous tests, so at least the jigsaw puzzle activity didn’t hurt student learning!