Working toward group goals and incorporating individual accountability is key. If these things are happening, then most likely the “noise” IS a joyful noise. One of our class readings (which you don't absolutely need to have read to understand and contribute to this blog) points to these two main goals being necessary for effective cooperative learning to take place. A group should be working towards a common goal through the sharing of ideas and the implementation of the steps needed to meet the goals. In addition, each person in the group should have a role in meeting that goal. If students are doing this, while treating each other respectfully, then they are moving forward in a positive fashion. The teacher’s role, then, is one of facilitator, where he or she provides time and space for groups to work together and provides guidance and feedback where necessary.
Math is just one of the subjects that can be taught through cooperative learning. Here is a video that discusses the subject. Much of the focus is on teaching the process of cooperative learning but there is some commentary on math as well. The video also touches upon the power cooperative learning has in making math relevant and meaningful to students, perhaps the most significant reason being that cooperative learning is student driven, meaning students are active learners and even teachers themselves in some cases. It is so interesting to watch how engaged the students in this video are.