The Lock Box

This is an amazing activity that I stole from 17GoldenFish.  You can read his blog post about his version of the activity here.

This is a totally awesome activity, in more ways than one.  I set it up slightly differently: First of all, I built the actual box with 5 padlock hasps that all have to be unlocked to get into the box, in which I put a bunch of cheap candy.

The class I started with was my 2 sections of Algebra 2 classes.  These students have been giving me fits all year.  We have an “Advanced Algebra 2” class in our school for students who are college-bound in a STEM career, so the students I have in my “regular” Algebra 2 are students who (at one time) professed an interest in college, but let’s say not STEM motivated.  Some of them are not very motivated at all.

I generated worksheets for these students on solving systems of equations, 10 systems for each lock (50 total problems). KUTA Infinite Algebra 2 software made quick work of this. Students had to solve each system then add up all the answers to get the combination to one lock.  I divided the class into 5 groups and gave each group a worksheet. The awesome thing was they (of course) didn’t get all the right answers at first, and had to go back and CHECK ALL OF THEIR ANSWERS to figure out which one was wrong.  They initially wanted me to come around and check their work and tell them where they made a mistake.  I have to admit that I have probably done way too much of this in the past.  However, I made them work with each other to check answers.  I specifically showed them how to have another person in their group do the problem in parallel so that they can compare answers.

They were 100% engaged.  Even some of my normally least engaged kids:

Once a group finally got a lock open, I dispersed the first group out to the other groups to help check answers. Basically EVERY problem had to be done CORRECTLY before ANY kid got ANYTHING. I have never seen them work together like that before.

I was initially concerned that I had made this activity too hard.  It seemed very difficult for the students to make sufficient progress, and they made many disappointing trips to the box with a wrong combination.  However, they were super excited when they finally got their locks open. They jumped up and down and cheered and laughed. For SOLVING SYSTEMS OF EQUATIONS!

I really like the cooperative nature of this activity.  I like that it is NOT a competition and that some students have to feel like they “lost.”  Every kid got a small handful of candy.  It’s winners all the way around.

This activity is adaptable for almost any content.  All you need is problems with numeric answers that can yield a 3-digit number for a lock combination.

Down the road bonus: yesterday I gave them just a normal worksheet on graphing linear inequalities. The cooperative nature of the lock box activity carried over and they were working cooperatively on that worksheet as well!  This activity seems to foster and teach cooperative work in a culture where that was not the norm.

My only concern with this activity is that I not overdo it.  I think the effectiveness would wear off if I did it too often, but I want to do it often enough so that the cooperative work part is reinforced.

I have a set of worksheets ready to go for Geometry on triangle sums.