Spending an entire period on one problem…

I have been reflecting on my teaching journey lately.
Year 1: No clue. Survivor mode.
Year 2-6: Thinking I’m getting better and better each year. Still clueless.
Year 7: Blogging begins. My eyes are opened to what’s out there. I start to really examine what I’m teaching and create some more interactive activities.
Year 8: Realize that I was clueless last year. Start acting like my 2 year old. Ask why more times than I can count. Spend countless minutes in dead silence because I’m not going to let a student out of figuring out the answer. Focus totally shifts from getting the answer to a problem to how many questions can I ask and how can we apply this knowledge and making sure every single student is proving proving proving and then saying it just one more time for fun. Hoping that I’m on the right track now and I won’t discover more cluelessness next year. But for now…

I put up a problem yesterday. I’m blogging on my phone with a baby falling asleep in one arm and a 2 year old leaning against my other side, so you don’t get a picture. The problem was from the Smarter Balanced practice problem section for middle school. There is a number line and 4 boxes marking spots on the line. You had to drag 4 problems: -3 1/2 – 3 1/2; -3 1/2 + 3 1/2; -3 1/2 – (-5); and -3 1/2 + (-5) to their spots. And the eyes glazing over starts… Fractions. So I tell them they aren’t allowed to add or subtract any numbers. They were only allowed to look at the numbers and the signs and figure out where the problems could go based on those things. The number 0 was marked on the number line. We talked about zero pairs and how to take care of that one first. Then on to deciding which answer would be positive. Then deciding between the 2 negative answers. Then we discussed how one arrow was pointing to a whole number marker and one was in the middle of the markers and what we could do with that information. And over and over and over we looked at that one problem. I’ve never talked less and had students talk more. (Except on Socratic circle days!) We never actually got to solving the problems, but I think, I hope, they learned so much more!

I read this post today, and think it is so true. I used to hope I would finally create unit/lesson plans that I could use 2 years in a row. And now I hope that never happens because that would mean I am done finding new ways to reach students.

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Mini Review Units/ Integers

One of the things I have decided to do this year is to have mini review units in between each of my larger units.  So this year, I did a Rational Numbers unit, then an Expressions and Equations unit.  Now I am going to spend the next week reviewing rational numbers before going on a to a new unit.  After that unit, a rational numbers review week again, then an expressions and equations review week.  I am hoping that these mini units will keep students on top of the material we learned before and help them to realize that just because a unit is over doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for the material again.  On Friday, we did The Great Integer Race.  Each student got an addition or subtraction problem and they had to silently walk around the room and find the person with a problem that would result in the same answer.  But then, I added a next step.  We have been working on putting in Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning piece into our plans this year.  Once students found their matches, they had to write how they knew that their match was correct.  They switched their problems on the way back to their seats, then did the whole thing 4 more times.  It was pretty basic, but helped to review some skills they had learned in the past.

Activity

Socratic Circle- Fundraisers

One of the high points of my year last year was when I did a Socratic Circle in my class.  We used a lesson from Robert Kaplinsky’s website– by the way, I am so happy to see that recently everyone seems to have found the awesomeness that he has on there, cause it is great!  We just completed another Circle this week, although we didn’t use one of his lessons, I’m planning on using a bunch of them during my next unit.

This time, we use a problem on fund raising from Math Gains.  I liked this problem to do early in the year because the math was pretty basic and there was no clear right or wrong answer.  Students were able to bring in many other considerations in addition to the math behind the fund raising to support their reasoning.

Yet again, this proved to be an amazing activity because it got the kids talking about math.  So many kids surprised me.  Students who have barely spoken in class were suddenly in the inner circle debating.  After day 1, I had a student who will barely lift a pencil in class yell “no!” when I said class was over and run up to me excitedly to tell me how great this activity was because it was a real world problem.

I’m trying Box instead of Scribd because apparently Scribd needs a password now.  If you need anything I have previously uploaded to Scribd, please ask.  I am happy to email you the documents.  Excuse the formatting if it is off, I used a fun font 🙂

Part 1

Part 2