5 Reasons you Should be Using Exit Tickets in your Middle & High School Math Class

Exit slips, exit tickets, tickets out the door, quick-checks, check-ins, show me what you know’s…whatever you call them, they’re incredible teaching tools that every secondary math teacher should be incorporating into their regular teaching practice. In this first installment of the Everything You Ever Wanted To Know about Using Exit Tickets in your Math Classroom series, and I wanted to dive straight into the reasons why YOU, yes you, will benefit from using exit tickets in your classes. No need to waste any time, let’s get into it!

Let’s start with the basics: What’s an exit ticket and why would I want to use one?

An exit ticket is a type of formative assessment and they are a great way for teachers to assess if their students really understood the lesson and can help to diagnose problem areas that may need revisited. It also helps promote the incredibly important skills of reflection and critical thinking within your students, and gets your students writing about their math. Win, win, win! Many students will say all is fine and dandy during a lesson (when that could be far from the truth), but exit slips can help uncover issues before they get away on you. Students also find it easier to be honest about where they are at when they are communicating with you in writing, rather than in front of the class or even talking to you in person (face to face interactions is hard, ya’ll). In short, exit slips give you, the teacher, direction, and help keep students accountable for their learning, too!

Here are the top 5 reasons you should be using exit tickets:

  1. Immediate Feedback – You get immediate feedback about how your students are doing with a lesson. How do you really know how your students are doing if you are not utilizing formative assessment? Circulating the room seems like it gives you plenty of information, and I used to think this was enough for years, but not after you get used to doing exit tickets on the regular. If you’re not using them regularly, it’s like you are teaching blind and hoping for the best.

  2. More Engagement – It’s not everyone’s personality to ask a question out loud, in front of other people, during class. No matter what teacher techniques you use to get more voices into the conversation, there are some students that will verbally share only a fraction of what they’re really thinking. Writing is such a lower pressure way for students to communicate with you, their teacher, in a honest fashion about how they’re doing. I get far more honest and detailed feedback, from a much larger portion of the class than if I were to rely on verbal feedback and creepin’ over their shoulders to look at their work, alone. Allowing students to write instead of talk, gives them a great way to engage with the learning and tell you exactly what they need!

  3. Reflection – Exit slips require students to reflect upon their learning, which activates a different part of their brain. Without going too deep into the brain science, reflection is a truly essential factor in establishing strong pathways and connections in the brain when working on new skills. That being said, learning how to reflect productively, can be very hard for students. Heck, it can be hard for some adults I know. To help develop the skill of reflection in your students, using exit tickets that specifically require them to reflect works wonders over the course of a few months. I have specific templates for exit tickets that help students work on reflection, which makes the process of learning how to reflect so, so much easier.

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  4. Critical Thinking – Even harder than reflection is critical thinking, but this is where the magic of learning math is. Math is not simply a series of steps and rules. Students need to be able to think critically about math to be able to comfortably move beyond set proceedures and rules and apply their learning to unknown scenarios. That said, the skill takes a lot of effort for students to develop, so having a specific model to follow can help students become more proficient much more quickly.

  5. Writing about Math. Finally, the importance of writing about math is cannot be emphasized enough. First off, many students will share much more freely in writing than they would verbally during class (this goes back to the engagement piece) and this allows you to see a much clearer idea of WHAT they’re thinking. When students simply show their work, it forces us teachers to make a lot of assumptions about why a mistake was made and we don’t always get it right. Normally when a student explains WHY they did something, it’s extremely eye-opening. Secondly, writing about math forces students to engage with the material on a much deeper level. Students have to be able to synthesize their learning and structure it in a coherent way. That’s DEEP! This also helps students to make bigger-picture connections, which is what we are all about here in math land!

If you would like to use the exit ticket templates I’ve developed for my classroom that emphasize critical thinking, error analysis, and writing about math, check them out here:

You can read the second installment of this blogging series, “How often should I use an exit ticket? A secondary math teacher explains all,” here.

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