Secondary Smörgasbord Happy Hour: Math Lawyers- Defend Your Answer!

Welcome to the kickoff of Secondary Smorgasbord, a monthly blog Linky for secondary teachers, grades 6-12.  We are excited to share tips and resources to make your job easier.  We will also be building an archive of everyone's posts on our Pinterest board, Secondary Education Resources, so be sure to follow the board for more great ideas to use in your classrooms.

Each month we will feature a different theme.  This month is Happy Hour and each secondary teacher blogger is sharing a favorite free resource, just for you!

Become a Math Lawyer~ Defend your answers!
I now invite you to sit back and sip your favorite Happy Hour beverage of choice, as I share an "aha!" moment with you...

Once upon a time, in my math class not too far away, I had students who figured if they had an answer to a math problem written down, it must be correct.  They couldn't tell me why.  They couldn't tell me how they got there.  There was graphite on the paper- wasn't that enough?  

I called it the "Saving My Brain for a Special Occasion" syndrome.  I had to get through to them that this was that special occasion.  What could I do to get their buy-in and own their work? (If any of this sounds remotely familiar to you, please know there is a happy ending!)

And then... an epiphany!  (I love epiphanies, don't you?)  At the time, I was just about to get a student teacher who happened to be a former corporate lawyer.  I know... give up all those billable hours to work with kids.  What was he thinking?  He was determined and, as it turns out, he was great!  But I digress...

We were in the middle of a math problem that involved several steps.  As I was recording everyone's answers for a discussion, no one seemed to notice they were all over the board with their solutions. Then it hit me.  

"OK, class... Today you have a new job.  You have all been hired as math lawyers and your job is to Defend Your Answers!"  

Lots of questions ensued. 

"What does that mean?" 
"Do we get paid?"  
"Can I be the judge?"
"My mom's a lawyer!"

Finally, we decided what a proper defense would look like.  They had to be able to defend each of the bullets below. To help them remember, I eventually gave each student a printed label of the checkpoints for their math journals.  

Become a Math Lawyer~ Defend your answer!
It's amazing how a pretend title can boost the quality of work.  Kids love to play grownup.  Many found their "clients" needed some polishing before their "presentation in front of a jury of their peers" (class discussion), and changes were made. After all, each Math Lawyer wanted his/her client to win their case! 

It took some training, but eventually, all I had to say was, "As a Math Lawyer, are you able to defend this answer?"  Discussions improved. Students asked questions of the "lawyer" presenting.  Suggestions were made. Learning happened!  

I am forever grateful to my lawyer-student teacher for the Math Lawyer inspiration.  Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have that built-in inspiration, but you can have your very own poster/label set, Become a Math Lawyer~ Defend your answer! for your students!  I'll be anxious to hear how it works for you.    

Thanks for stopping by!

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