Why I'm Convinced 1+1 can Equal 3

How can 1+1=3?  Its not an equation of numbers, but an equation of people.  I've always been a believer, but the immense value of collaboration has become crystal clear to me lately.  I now see every problem or project as a puzzle and I thoroughly believe the members of my PLN hold the pieces to that puzzle.  Between my local colleague and my virtual connectionsThe same rings true in the classroom.

Last week I was listening to a group of students reflect on their egg drop contraption.  One student brought up an idea to add more cushioning to the bottom, another group member jumped in and suggested adding a small ballon to the bottom of the egg holder.  Another student chimed in about needing to add something on top of the egg so it wouldn't bounce out.  The ideas continued to flow from all the group members.  Within 5 minutes the group had an amazing plan and they were all anxious to try again.  I don't believe those students could have came up with that idea individually.  The concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts goes back to the time of Aristotle and has never been more true than in today's economy.  Education has to embrace this reality.

There are countless benefits to collaboration in the classroom.  One benefit of small group collaboration is the breakdown of social anxiety.  So many students are hesitant to speak up in a class of 30 students, but feel much more comfortable contributing to a group of 3 or 4.  Another positive experience is students teaching other students.  They speak a common language and often learn more easily from their peers.

Just like any other skill, collaboration skills need to be taught and classroom norms need to be established.  Simple things such as establishing acceptable ways to give constructive criticism (ex. starting with, "I wonder if... ") can add important tools to your students collaboration skill set and allow 1+1 to equal more than 2.

Collaborative Skills Resource 1
Collaborative Skills Resource 2
Rubric for Assessing Teamwork


  1. Now in regards to the rubric for assessing teamwork, do you (as the teacher) assess teamwork? do the students assess their own team? Is this part of their grade? I am just wondering as I recently posted about grading group work and how teachers do it. http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2013/10/grading-groupwork.html

  2. Hey Carissa,
    Thanks for the comment. I think its all of the above: self assessment, group assessment, and teacher assessment are the perfect cocktail for assessment that counts for a grade. Thanks for the thoughtful blog idea!

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