Beginning of School Activity

So I’ve done a bunch of “ALL-ED” PDs through Math for America (ALL ED stands for All Learners Learning Every Day) with an awesome facilitator, Rhonda Bondie. She’s introduced me to a lot of different ideas about group work including something she calls group routines.

One of her favorite routines is called “Rumors.” Essentially, students write their answer to a prompt in advance on an index card. Then, they get up, find a partner, read from their index card, listen while their partner reads, and then exchange cards. They find new partners immediately and repeat, again swapping cards. After approximately 3 minutes, they’ve tried to speak with the most number of students possible. (you can find more details about this routine here:

I’ve never used this routine before, but I’ve been thinking about teaching younger students and the need to get them up more often. I’m wondering if there are ways to incorporate this routine in more frequently to get my students moving around – especially at the beginning of the year and each unit?

The first idea I had was to ask students to answer the question “Math is like …” early in the school year (first week or so, as seen here:, or to answer a different question, “What do you think math is?” (these are two very different questions). Then use rumors to have students go around to share their ideas with each other, so we can see what different opinions are within the classroom.

I think the reason I’ve never used Rumors before is because I’m having difficulty thinking of examples to use the same routine with a more content-focused question. I could see it perhaps as a preview question at the start of a new unit, “What do you know about negative numbers?” but I think if there’s misconceptions, it might be something that’s more intimidating than something that’s more creative, with less “wrong” answers. Any content-specific ideas?

I also thought of another one that we had discussed during a session last year. On one side of the index cards, students solve a problem – it could be an equation or it could be another type of problem. On the reverse side, they explain how they solved it – what was their process. Students can even be grouped in the beginning to check solutions against each other. They should be given enough different problems that they can find at least three students who didn’t start at the same problem as them to exchange rumors with. This would work probably as review at the end of a unit.

I could also see a rumors one where each student is given an expression like 2x – 7 or 3(2x+4) and told to write it in as many ways as possible in English (i.e. seven less than 2 times a number or the 3 times the sum of 2 times a number increased by 4) and then they go around exchanging rumors. A twist I could see here is that each time, you need to try to add at least one more way to translate it to the new card you receive (like telephone, where rumors can get changed around!). So if I had already written one of the examples above, my new partner might need to add something like double a number decreased by 7 or triple the quantity four plus double a number.


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