What a Difference 12 Kids Make

from map.mathshell.org

We’ve entered Spring Trimester and the volatile Minnesota weather is cooperating thus far.  If there’s a silver lining to last year’s Spring suckfest, the lack of warmer weather put off the end-of-the-year slide until closer to May.  I’m not sure we’ll have the same luxury this year.

I teach the same level of Algebra 2 that I did last year but my class sizes are a more manageable 22-24 rather than the monstrosity of 36 I had last year.  I know class size isn’t high on Hattie’s list of influences on student achievement, but providing formative evaluation (something VERY influential, according to Hattie) is much more doable with 20-something rather than 30+.

I’ve left the desks in pods because I’m convinced students interact and collaborate mathematically more often when they have multiple classmates within conversation distance.  I want to switch their groups periodically, if only I could get them to sit in their assigned seat!

One of my go-to resources is the Mathematics Assessment Project. Their lessons are robust, and provide good opportunities for students to have great conversations around the mathematics.  This lesson on investments is no exception.  The main activity is a card sort where students match a principal and interest rate of an investment with a formula, graph, table, and description.  But the everything from the pre-assessment to the closing slide makes students think and share.

Here are the openers of the main lesson:

from map.mathshell.org

from map.mathshell.org

from map.mathshell.org

from map.mathshell.org

My assumption, not being familiar with this group of kids, was that they’d go right for the obvious – Investment 3 is the odd one out because it has a 10% interest rate and the others have a 5% interest rate.  I underestimated them.  They came up with very creative, thoughtful reasons why each investment could be considered the odd one out.  I really like these questions because all three can be correct, and students have an opportunity to defend multiple answers.

The card sort was also spectacular.  I was able to have great conversations with each group about their thinking. (Yes, that’s much easier to do with 24 rather than 36).  What a difference 12 kids makes.  There is so much to this lesson to love.  If you have a unit on exponential functions, give it a try.  I’d love to hear how it went in your classroom.

Emotional Baggage Around My Wrist

This blog post is more personal therapy than it is educational reflection, but I hope that others dealing with similar strife can relate and find solidarity.

Two weeks ago, I was in a car accident on the way to school on a clear, dry, sunny Monday morning.  I was heading north on a county highway when a car pulled out from my right to head south.  My SUV slammed into him at about 50 miles per hour deploying all of my airbags and sending my car into oncoming traffic.  When my car came to a stop on the opposite side of the road, I was relieved that my Sync system was dialing 911 on my behalf.  Who knows where my cell phone was at that point.  Fifteen minutes later, a police officer arrived.  The driver of the other car was issued a citation for distracted driving and my mangled Escape was hauled away.


My Ford Escape immediately following the accident.

The pain that remained in my hand kept intensifying as the morning went on, so instead of waiting for a doctor appointment to get myself checked out, I headed for the ER.  Sure enough, my left thumb was fractured.  The airbag that saved my face instead broke my thumb when I gripped the wheel, bracing for impact.

I was angry.  Thumbs are important.  Two working thumbs are a lot more productive than one.  I didn’t cause this accident, yet I’m the one left with a broken hand, smashed car, and sore neck. To add more gas to my resentment-fueled fire, the Doogie Howser-esque orthopedic surgeon informed me that my busted digit would require pins to heal properly.

This past week, I’ve thankfully moved past anger but haven’t seemed to be able to rise above the emotional grip this hand cast has had on my day-to-day functioning.  I couldn’t imagine that having difficulty taking the cap off of a dry-erase marker would have such a strong emotional impact.

This week we began a new trimester, so I struggled with the decision to take a few days off of work so I could wrap my brain around this injury and release myself from the emotional handcuff surrounding my thumb.  Our culture accepts physical injury, but the unseen toll on our mental well-being is what really needs the most care.

The part of the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is accepting powerlessness over alcohol.  While this is true for addictions in general, that thinking is also applicable here.  I am powerless over my broken thumb, the 6-week casting period and my physical disabilities resulting.  My emotional interpretation of the event, however, is completely in my control, and I’m determined to make the best of it and be a better person because of it.  Life is full of lessons, and this one is teaching me humility.  I am determined to be humble enough to accept it.