I jumped on board the VNPS (vertical non-permanent surface) bandwagon this year and have loved the result, but I also installed contact paper style sticky white board material on all the tables and that has made a MAJOR impact in student work. Students definitely need time to get up and think together, but they also need a quiet, semi-private place to think, make mistakes and move forward.
The stuff is relatively cheap, can easily be peeled off, and seems to clean as easy or easier than my actual white board. But most importantly, the students are so much more willing to try new strategies, make mistakes and then keep trying. Other students are more likely to help each other by adding there own thoughts and even basic practice seems more efficient and productive. As opposed to having actual little boards that have to be taken out, these live on the desks. Markers and erasers are left out on the tables and students can use them whenever. I’ve pushed the idea of rough draft math thinking as a great use of the boards, but we do independent practice and group work there too. I even caught a student inventing his own problems while waiting for class to begin.
One roll cost be about $6 on Amazon and it was enough for 3 tables (~18x26ish on each one). Its a simple idea, but probably my favorite thing that is different about this year.