Thursday, October 15, 2015

It All Started With "She Told Me to Stop Asking 'What If?'"

Today I had one of the best classes so far in my career. And it happened when I went completely off book.

We were working on writing equations for systems of equations word problems. I want them to solve without a calculator but these particular problems were gross without one, so I just had them ID their first step and we talked about the different ways to solve particular problems. Which led to a conversation about which numbers were "easier" to multiply by hand...

I of course mention in passing that I had been thinking about why I don't like multiplying by 7 the other night when I couldn't sleep. (I then clarified that I do have a life sometimes...). So I wrote some numbers on the board and we talked about the patterns that made numbers easier to multiply.

Some ones that they hadn't heard of were 11 (10 +1), 9 (10-1) and 5 being (10/2) which then makes 15 easier.

My students had so many ah-ha moments and were so engaged in the conversation. They wanted me to go back and teach the third graders to see math this way. We talked about how I never learned math this way and have only recently (thanks to the #mtbos ) begun trying to think of numbers this flexibly. It was amazing to see their eyes light up as we talked.

I've already digressed before in this class (basically 9th grade Algebra I) about different ways to subtract. But I think this is important for several reasons
1) Allowing them to build number sense
2) Seeing multiple methods to solve
and 3) Help them see math as creative and flexible

And when half their state final is without a calculator...these skills are even more valuable.

But back to the title...
We also perhaps digressed even more briefly into the concept of bases. To me this brings up the "why?" and "what if?" which I believe are the central questions in mathematics.  One of my very inquisitive students said her last math teacher asked her to stop asking "what it?". I can't even begin to convey to you what my face looked like. It literally brought tears to my eyes (which of course they noticed) as I emphatically begged her to keep asking that question. "I have taught you that is a great question to always ask, right???" "Yes, Ms. Hester...don't worry" *whew* Good...

And what followed was a great conversation about math, the beauty and patterns in math and the importance of asking questions.

It might not be on my pacing guide, but I hope that later students will remember today as a day that they really experienced and saw math in a different light.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

So Many Good Things #onegoodthing

So after my less than happy last post, I wanted to take a minute to highlight some of the happy things going on in my school year. I'd call it one good thing, but there are so many.

In no particular order:

1) I'm no longer considered a beginning teacher...which means: Less paper work (!!), less annoying mandatory meetings, and only two formal observations
2) Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (#vnps ie...whiteboards on the wall) are changing my classroom so much. Future posts pending about details.
3) Forming great relationships with students. I did several of the youcubed videos with discussion the first week of school and had students write a lot at the beginning. Students are so much more open and have a more positive attitude towards class and learning and I think those discussions really are paying off.
4) Getting to use activities from Desmos Activity Builder. 'Nough said.
5) No benchmark testing! Yay for not giving up so many days of my teacher for a pointless test.
6) Using MyInstantClassroom to do seating charts and groups for whiteboards. I hate seating charts and would always procrastinate sending them out
7) Folders for each group and each class to put their warmups and misc other papers for day to day. Solved my problem of students needed a binder and INB
8) Spiraling Warmups and HW has a huge impact and student attitudes and feeling that they still have a chance to learn material
9) In class time to correct tests...every single time
10) Keep scores on a separate piece of paper so students are only looking at comments until they have corrected their test.
11) Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor society) is taking off. I've had over 10 students at every meeting. Yay for fun math.
12) Former students and parents going out of their way to thank me for their experiences in my class
13) Former students coming to my room, seeing the whiteboards, and wishing they were in my class this year so they could use them.
14) Students telling me they are teaching others in their new classes things we learned.
15) Students telling me they still have their "math Bible" and use it.
16) Totally embracing myself as the energetic, obsessed with math teacher that I am
17) Making up songs for mundane tasks in my warmup song.
18) A colleague starting to use the box method only to divide polys.
19) Some of my colleagues finally using some of my activities/materials

And that's what I've got after a few minutes of a brain dump. Part of me hates to leave the list at only 19...but hey, those prime numbers need some love too and not just composites like 20 that are nice and round ;-)