Inspirational Story

This blog post is a story that made me appreciate being a teacher after a long, exasperating month.  This is the story of a student discovering a CAS device for the first time.

Background:  This student is a 9th grader who had me for a class other than his Algebra I class which he took from another teacher.  I have my TI-Nspire CAS handhelds at the back on the room on the chargers.  All students know them as “calculators” and tend to ignore them unless they are closer than the computer or their phone to calculate.

Story:  One day a student was waiting for a group member at the back of the classroom to make a phone call pertaining to a project.  He noticed the CAS handhelds and said, “I always wondered what these were.  Can I play with one?”

Me: “Of course you can but make sure you do not neglect your project.”

The student turns the handheld on and exclaims, “Cool! I wish I had one of these.”

He continues to investigate the functions of the handheld his other project forgotten.  I think to myself, “This is a teachable moment.”

Me: “Do you know those calculators are special?”

Student:  “What do mean?”

Me:  “Type 1 apple + 2 apple and press enter.”

Student:  “Oh my gosh it says 3 apple!  What if I add something else?”

Me:  “Try whatever object you want.”

Student investigates a little more then says, “I need one of these for my math class.  Can I please, please, please do homework?”

Me:  “This is not study hall.  What about your project?”

Student:  “I promise to work harder tomorrow on my project if you will let me do math homework today! please, please, please.”

Me:  “I guess.” (I really wouldn’t have passed up a chance to teach a student some math but I didn’t want to give in too easy)

Student gets out math and finds his assignment.

Me:  “What are you working on?”

Student:  “Quadratics with that equation thingy.”

Me:  “Well this particular calculator will allow you to enter your expression and receive and answer in radical form.”

Student:  “Really?  I want to try.”  Student works a few problems and is amazed by the results.  The student even uses it to teach another student who was absent the lesson.  This went on for a while and I was loving just watching the learning.  The student eventually investigated what the graph looked like and why it isn’t always 2 solutions.  Then the student made me feel wonderful.  He said, “I wish I had you as my math teacher, Mrs. Bonds.”  He probably just wanted the handhelds but it blessed me and made my heart swell.  I need days like that to remind me why I became a teacher.

0.9 Repeating

This was a precal class but I think would be an awesome activity with Middle Schoolers.

Easing the Hurry Syndrome

I got to teach one of my favorite lessons in a Precalculus class this week, which I developed several years ago from a paper by Thomas Osler, Fun with 0.999…

We started with a Quick Poll. Students could select as many or as few choices as they wanted.

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I shared their responses separated

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and grouped together.

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In the first class, one student selected all three choices.

In the second class, 5 students selected all three choices.

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I set the timer for a few minutes and asked students to think individually about how they could argue their selection(s).

Then I asked them to talk together about their ideas.

I walked around and listened. These are the conversations I heard:

A: 1/3 is 0.3 repeating. 2/3 is 0.6 repeating. If we add 1/3 and 2/3, we get 1. If we add 0.3 repeating and 0.6 repeating, we get 0.9 repeating.

B: 1/9…

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TreeHouses: A Middle School Design and Build Maker Project

A Space for Learning

treehouses The Tree House Project

I love that middle school learners are quick to jump in and activate as learners when given a context for learning.

 They may float between being semi-adults and semi-children and are at times the most stable and fragile of people, but they are explorers of life – through relationships, humor, risk taking, movement, music, stories, design, technologies and community.

girlbuilder Anyone can build

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had several occasions to watch middle school students working with each other and with teachers, parents, community members, their assistant principal and principal, and Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop fame.  Want kids to think mathematically, apply physical science principles, communicate effectively both verbally and non-verbally, work together and hold each other accountable for quality work?

Let them design and build tree houses – in the cafeteria – with power tools – and squares, measuring tapes, hammers, glue and…

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productive struggle vs. thrashing blindly

Experiments in Learning by Doing

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

What if we teach how to reach? How might we offer targeted struggle for every learner in our care?

SMP-1: Make Sense of Problems and Persevere #LL2LU

Investing time in teaching students how to learn is never wasted; in doing so, you deepen their understanding of the upcoming content and better equip them for future success. (Jackson, 19 pag.)

SMP-8: Look for and Express Regularity in Repeated Reasoning #LL2LU

If we are to harness the power of feedback to increase student learning, then we need to ensure that feedback causes a cognitive rather than an emotional reaction—in other words, feedback should cause thinking. It should be focused; it should relate to the learning goals that have been shared with the students; and it should be more work for the recipient than the donor. (Wiliam, 130 pag.)

Math Flexibility

When people believe their basic qualities can be…

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