Thursday, November 17, 2016

Day 59: Downs and Ups

Today was filled with an odd assortment of great things and deeply frustrating things.  I'll write about the frustrating ones first so that I can end my writing on a high note.

Many of my students are struggling with timely task completion.  I know that failing to understand certain concepts has a tendency to slow down work, and I'm alright with that.  If you're having difficulty, I want you to work more slowly and carefully, to allow me to help you as you need.

At the same time, if I assign 20 problems to be done in 40 minutes and you get to number 6, we are having an issue that needs to be addressed.  Similarly, I try to make my class as hands on as possible, but that still requires students to follow directions for an activity.

Several of the students in Math 7 and Pre-Algebra have been complaining about how they don't understand what's going on, but when I try to explain, or answer their questions, they are busy touching other kids or throwing things around the room.

Today's warm-up was mental math:  104 + 97

"What strategies did you use to solve this in your head?"

I was getting increasingly frustrated with numerous iterations of the following conversation:
"I just added it."
Me: "How did you add it?"
"I put the things together."
Me: "What does that look like in your head."
"It looks like adding."
Me: "Can you show us on the board?"
**write standard vertical column algorithm**
Me: "You did this in your head you visualized columns?"
"No. I didn't need to. I just did it."

So I put up a few examples of what I do in my head.

"I start at 104 and add 90, which brings me to 194, adding 6 more brings me to 200.  I have one more left over to put me at 201."

They stare blankly at me.

"Or, I know that I need 3 more to go from 97 to 100, so I borrow it from the 104, leaving it with 101 on that side. 100 + 101 gives me 201."

At this point, I hoped the pump was primed and asked them how they had done.

"I just added them."

On the upside, some of the kids in Math 7 gave me amazing ways to think about this question.

One student said he pictured a square with 100 pieces and four on the end. Then he pictures a square of 100 with 3 missing.  He moved 3 of the four to fill in the unfinished block, making one block of 100 and one of 101.


On top of this, we continued working with our fraction bars on fraction division and it seems as though a large number of the kids are actually getting it, and more importantly, really enjoying it!  I'm thinking that the next woodworking project will be to make a wooden set of fraction blocks.

I see much cutting and sanding in my future...

The other amazing thing that happened today was that my Integrated Math class was able to Skype with a landscape architect to talk about their gardening projects.  Our superintendent let me know that she won a $500 grant to build a garden at the school, so the pressure is on.  The groups were supposed to present today, but I think the Skype call made them rethink the way they were working on their projects.

I foresee much revision and hard work in their futures...

They were supposed to be presenting yesterday and today, but none of the groups were ready.  I would rather take more time and have the products be of better quality.

YAY! I did it right! I wrote about the bad stuff first and the good stuff last and I feel great now!

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