31 March 2016

This Hotel Lobby Wants Something From You

I love the idea of this table.

This is the table right next to the breakfast area at the suites my family stayed at over spring break. What does this table tell you?

With the choice of this long, narrow table, someone wanted to say, "You should sit here with people and TALK to them." This is out of the ordinary for most hotel lobbies, right? Tables are normal, yes, but typically they are square and fit 2-4 people. You go down to partake of the continental breakfast and guests sit spread out, usually keeping to themselves. I'll be honest - I didn't observe any difference in breakfast behavior patterns during my stay at the Home2 Suites, but I still had a different expectation when I walked into the lobby. If nothing else, it was an invitation or permission to interact in ways I would not normally feel a freedom to.

Like the buddy bench at some playgrounds, someone sitting at this table signals to others that they are open to "playing together."

What does this have to do with classrooms and learning??

Most teachers are more than comfortable with being mindful of ISOLATING students when it's assessment time, and any disciple of Wong's The First Days of School will ensure that students are able to move around the room without bottlenecking in spots, but we must also be mindful of how we will use seating to bring students together.

Not everyone is going to choose to work in a group (and that choice is SUPER important for introverts), but for those that do, is there a space on your room to make this not suck? I have many memories of smushing the slant-topped L-shaped desks together in high school, and it's a reality of room sharing and available space in a couple of my own classrooms right now, but NOTHING about that scenario screams "facilitating collaboration," right?

Whenever administrators or colleagues make note of the kids talking to each other at tables instead of silently staring at me during a lecture, I have to always push back and remind myself even that those tables are a choice I made to allow students to interact. In a perfect world, we would have flexible seating that easily combines, recombines, and separates to whatever setup I want, but if I must choose, I'll choose to connect, rather than isolate.

This Convinced Me Students Should Be Playing Chess

via Instagram http://ift.tt/1q4kKse

I didn't truly buy-in to "chess builds problem solvers" until my 6 year old started drawing out chess boards in her free time to prepare for victory in our matches before bedtime. It's great practice sharing our thinking together. 😂😍

I quite randomly began teaching her chess several weeks ago after telling me about a playdate with some friends. She said they played "chess," and asked if we could play, too. I was pretty sure she meant checkers, but I offered to try and show her "real" chess anyway, and she's taken a lot of interest in learning. She's even taken to trying to teach her 4 year old brother the game so she can have playmates while I'm at work.

We've been able to talk about patterns, cause and effect, and practiced sportsmanship and endurance in just the small number of games we've already played.

I'm really not very good myself, but its been a great experience learning together, and I hope that my own experience (and lack thereof) is encouraging to you that we don't need to be grandmasters in order to introduce the game to our kids. 

08 March 2016

A Math Limerick Led My Students to Learning History

I ran across this mathematical limerick somewhere on social media over the weekend, and threw it at my students purely as an equation to simplify for their Do Now this morning.
The best I can cite it is from here: https://www.math.hmc.edu/funfacts/ffiles/10001.8.shtml

After giving students time to evaluate the expression and verify its veracity, I showed the word form and had a student read it aloud.

Who hasn't heard "Four score and seven years ago..." and at least tripped a little on how much time a "score" is? That of course then med us to looking up WHO said it, and from which speech, exactly, it came from.

I found more on mathematical limericks on this post from another blog - http://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com/2010/03/mathematical-limericks.html?m=1

How could you have your own students write math limericks in the same way?

First you need to know some things about limericks (taken from the link above):
"A LIMERICK is a light humorous, nonsensical, or bawdy verse of five lines usually with the rhyme scheme aabba. Rhyming lines 1, 2, and 5 contain three anapests (that is, sequences of three syllables with an accent on the third syllable); lines three and four contain two such sequences. (Often the accent pattern varies a bit from the definition; for example, a line may being with only one non-accented syllable.)"
Next, I'd have students write out a list of numbers and operations to use in their rhyming.

The last bit is the hardest... actually writing the limerick. I'll be honest - I expected to be able to do this without much trouble.

I could not. :)

Someone train me in this wizardry - I want to be able to do it with my students!

03 March 2016

Real Math - My Son's Oat Milk

One of my boys has food allergies. A ton of them. So many that wife and I keep a list for OURSELVES posted in the kitchen. The latest and greatest food sensitivity seems to be to flax, which means my wife went looking for a replacement to his flax milk today. (Flax milk was already a replacement for coconut, which had replaced soy, which had replaced almond, which had replaced dairy. Tired yet?)

She tried using our Kitchen-Aid blender today, and got through the job, but it was quite under-powered for what she really needed, so we made the decision to buy one of those hardcore you-can-blend-an-iphone blenders.

When I got home from a meeting earlier, she asked me to do some math with her. Here was our conversation.

As we talked, I wrote down what she was saying, and put together 2 expressions to make a system.

Before I talk about Algebra, I just want to give her a shoutout for having AMAZING estimation skills, but really, check out those systems! I asked her if we could record before she asked me the real question, and I was HOPING, to get something worthwhile, but this is so cut and dry perfect it was like she set me up.
Next time your students ask about using systems in their lives, feel free to let them know about the little boy in Missouri and his mom making oat milk. :)