Day 1: Almost New Beginnings

When I started this site, I wanted a place to collect things for my classroom as well as a place to reflect on my teaching.  I have been slightly less reflective than I intended- I have focused on the “things” to do in the classroom.  So I will try to follow in the steps of my good friend @JustinAion and write some small blurb on how the day progressed…

Today was my first day back with students.  As many of you know I teach at a juvenile center, and I was very disappointed that I had many returning students from last year.  I do enjoy having students in my class, the fact that they had to return to the center doesn’t bode well for their (or their parent/guardian’s) decisions outside these walls.  I came in today ready for the new year and the new things I had planned, but this burst my bubble slightly.  I can’t count the times I really wish we could provide a stable, safe environment for these kids while they are of school age- I wonder how that would play out in the legal systems both juvenile and adult?

I started the hour with a problem from “Problems Without Figures”.  I do this because the first problem really challenges students and their preconceived ideas of what my math class will offer them.  Couple that with the fact that the book was designed for 4th to 8th grade students in 1909 and it really gets them thinking about what has happened to them in math the past few years.  One great thing from the problem this year, although many did not know how to approach it- every single one worked on it and attempted some solution path.  Not a single student this year sat there and shut themselves down.  It was great to start out this way, it means things should go pretty well when I start really challenging them to think later on.

I then had to get Star Math tests done as a baseline for the year.  This is less enjoyable for me as well as the students, but it is how we place students in the Accelerate Math program which is used to monitor student growth within our system.

Next activity in line was Visual Patterns.  This year I am doing something a bit different, I have students write their notes to this problem (as well as others we do as a class) on a note card, that I then put on a book ring.  Students are creating a quick reference resource for themselves.  I only ask students 3 things for VP:

  1. Write down things you notice.
  2. Describe what the next shape look like.  Please provide a sketch.
  3. What is the rule?

I have found that the less that I introduce to the problem (I used to use the sheet on Fawn’s site) the more I get from students.  They did awesome on VP, coming up with multiple patterns things they noticed.  When I ask them what the next shape looks like, they can readily sketch it- and they produced a wealth of ways to describe how they found that shape.  The rule is trickier, I typically get a recursive way to generate figures.  This is where the kids get challenged- moving from their “adding 2” descriptions to defining it in a way that works quickly for any step I ask of them.  I like the connections they are making transitioning from the recursive rule to an equation.  Overall I really like this change to questioning VP’s, I think it’s a keeper for my class.

The last activity I did for the day was Estimation 180.  I like to alternate between Fawn’s and Andrew’s site for warm-up problems so I wanted students to get familiar with them quickly (and while they were thinking, not calculating).  I also changed from using the forms provided on the site to the note-cards.  I do the normal routine of asking students for a Low, High and Guess- but I am also asking them to provide explanations for each.  I have found that having students say why they picked a low or high number prevents students from writing down trivial numbers.  I hope this will also push students to create the smallest confidence interval they can.

Overall Day 1 was great, a nice way to start the year in a place that can easily stifle students.

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