Saturday, March 5, 2011

Relationships > maths

Here's how I taught two disengaged middle school boys how to multiply. Let me be clear, school was the least of these boys' concerns.

While they sat talking about their math homework, I came over to introduce myself as their teacher, and asked them what they were looking at.

They showed me a math worksheet on Pythagorean Theorem. I asked them if they understood what they were doing. They laughed.

So I started to ask questions in order to find out what they did know. They understood that the shapes were triangles - which was good - but they didn't understand what those little twos were doing above the letters of the alphabet:


I asked what 8 x 8 equaled. They didn't know. So I showed them how 8 x 8 is 8 things 8 times: 

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Then I asked what 8 x 2 was. They got 16 pretty quickly. I asked how they got that, and they drew me this:

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Then I asked, "Are you boys ready because I'm going to blow your minds?"

They replied, "yeah, we're ready."

I stared at one then the other.

A little nervously they said, "nah, we're not ready." 

We laughed.

I asked them what 8 x 1 was. They quickly said 8.

Then I wrote 8 x 1/2.

One of the boys said, "I don't fucking know."

I said, "hold on, hold on. You guys said that 2 groups of 8 is 16, and 1 group of 8 is 8 - so what's a half group of 8?"

wait time... wait time...

...one of the boys said hesitantly, "four."

I said, "you just did it."

They said, "no way."

I said, "way."

We laughed.

Because I had to get back to the other students, I stood and said, "I'll be here all week, make sure you tip your waitress."

This quick, light-hearted interaction with these two boys initiated a relationship that engaged them in learning for the remainder of time they spent with me. And in the end, they needed the relationship more than the math.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like a great start, but don't you agree that we should try to get students to the point where they will stay focused on their work without a teacher there holding their hand? If so, how do you get there?

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  2. Hi,

    2 contrasting approaches to teaching math with computers , comments from Sylvia Martinez , also blog by Chris Sears on the Wolfram talk

    http://allankatz-parentingislearning.blogspot.com/2011/03/math-education-using-technology-2.html

    ReplyDelete

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