Several years ago, I attended a session on differentiated instruction with a wonderful woman named Dr. Vera Blake. One of the suggestions she made was that we use the RAFT model as a check for understanding. For those of us more mathematical than Englishal, RAFT is a writing tool typically used in English classes. RAFT stands for: Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. It helps students focus their writing by clarifying what their role is, who their audience is, what format is appropriate, and what topic needs to be covered. I may have just demonstrated a rudimentary understanding of the process, but I’m a math teacher…

I asked Dr. Blake to tell me how I might use it in a Math class. She showed me how to use it as a review, and a check for understanding. I was wrapping up a quadratics unit with an11th grade class, and she helped me write a set of RAFTs to use as a review with them. I created as many as I could think of, and had pairs of students randomly select one RAFT. For example, one pair was given the role of the discriminant. Their audience was a quadratic function, and the format was a letter from a stalker. The topic was “I know all about you!” A pair of quiet and shy girls wrote a really creepy letter from the discriminant to the quadratic function. Their letter clearly demonstrated understanding of what the discriminant indicated about the graph of the corresponding function.

The class had a lot of fun with it. We had songs, raps, poems, letters, posters, radio ads and many other things performed in class after one day of preparation. Some other examples included a quadratic formula writing a cover letter to a quadratic equation to apply for a job, a dating ad written by a quadratic formula who was looking for love and understanding, and a workout plan devised by a personal trainer aimed at making a specific quadratic function skinnier. What all of them had in common, was that they showed an understanding of the class material.

There were some bumps. The group that had to write the dating ad had no idea what a dating ad looked like, so they searched personal ads on my computer. That probably wasn’t a good career move. Another group had to design a twelve step process in the manner of AA to solve a problem. They also searched on my computer for addiction programs. Despite it all, I managed to keep my job.

I had also forgotten to consider assessment, so I forced a rubric on their presentations in the end. I should have left it as a formative assessment.

If you are interested in trying one of the two I created, feel free. I’d love to hear from you about how it went.

Quadratic Equations and Functions RAFT Topics – Math 20-1 and Math 20-2

Relations and Functions RAFT Topics – Math 10C

Here are some samples of student work from the 11th grade class on quadratics. They were a little better when seen performed live, in front of the class, but you will get the idea. The girls who wrote the first letter are clearly better students of English than I am.

on September 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |Mike Streeter (@mikestreeter)Did this with Jr. high data management/stats and it worked out great. Made up 5 different topics to add even more choice to the assignment. Found I had to give a lot of graphic organizers to help with the writing though.

on September 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm |SandiLove it! I will be sharing this with the math teachers I see!