We all know what it looks like — a classroom full of students working on worksheets. We have been students and we have been teachers in a classroom like this. There is nothing wrong with them, but they are obviously not very exciting. Students indubitably need to practice the material, and they need to spend a lot of time doing it to make it all stick. So we keep doing what we’ve always done. We give them worksheets and hope for the best. We don’t particularly like it, but we have difficulty seeing any other way.
The problem with students using worksheets is their focus. If they lose interest and leave the work incomplete, the material won’t get in their heads or much less stay there for the long term. Even if they complete the sheets but aren’t engaged, the result will likely be similar. The use of worksheets is a longstanding tradition of math classes, and I’m not suggesting that they be completely done away with. What I suggest is to look at them from a different angle.
Consider using current worksheets in different ways. Is it possible to take existing sets of problems and use them in a way that looks or feels different? For example, could you cut the worksheet into pieces and let the students work in groups on their own piece or even individually? Can you turn the material into an activity that allows for less writing and more discussion? This can take a seemingly boring task and turn it into a deeper lesson. Another way that the problems can look different is in activities like mazes or puzzles. The students feel more like they are playing a game than doing the work, and it just attracts their attention rather than repelling it.
Start with one topic and see what happens. Then, modify it and make it better the next time. See if you can come up with at least one good new activity each grading period. In no time you will have a whole pile of goodies.
Here are a few examples of things I have created recently. Maybe they will spark your imagination. 🙂