Math = Love: Second Year: Day One

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Second Year: Day One

So, today was the fourth day of school.  And, I still haven't even blogged about the first day.  Or the second.  Or the third.  Or today.  How can I already be so behind on blogging this early in the school year?  This is not a good sign, people.

I do believe that day one of year two was a success!  Last year, I was a stressed-out mess on the first day of school.  I had no clue what I was actually going to say when I stood up in front of my students for the first time.  I had student taught, but my cooperating teacher had always been the one to introduce me and ease me into things. I was completely on my own, and that was a terrifying thought.

Welcome Back Poster Made by My Student Council Kids
This morning, I tried to remember what I said to my students last year on the first day.  I don't remember exactly what I said, but I do remember that I did a lot of talking.  Then, I had students change their schedules, move in, etc., and I ended up saying all that stuff over and over again for the next few days.

Another Welcome Poster
This year, I wanted to do something different.  Instead of spending the first period talking, I wanted to get my students engaged in doing something mathematical.  When my students look back over their first day of school, I want my class to stick out in their memories.  Yes, the students who already knew me or knew of me gave me grief today for making them do work because "nobody else is making us do work today."  I just smiled and gave them the "Seriously?  Don't you know by now that you're going to do math every single day in Ms. Hagan's class?" look.

Lockers, Ready To Meet Their New Owners
When the superintendent hired me, he advised me to not smile until Christmas.  That is definitely not my style.  I've earned the reputation of being the fun math teacher who makes her students do a lot of work.  And, it's true.  We do have a lot of fun.  Lots of laughter occurs inside the four walls of my classroom.  We tell jokes.  We play games.  Students give me a hard time, and I give them a hard time in return.  At the same time, my class is very serious when it comes to math.

This year, I am emphasizing problem solving strategies and cooperative learning in my classroom.  So, I chose activities for my classes to participate in that would require or encourage them to work in a group.

This summer, I went to a Pre-AP Mathematics workshop.  During the first day of that workshop, I had the opportunity to work through Five Easy Pieces which was designed by the Exeter Math Academy.  I fell in love with the activity because it involves three of my favorite things--paper folding, algebra, and logic puzzles!  
Five Easy Pieces 
Since this activity requires students to manipulate variables and write equations, I decided it would be a perfect basic algebra review for my Algebra 2 students.  I met my students at the door with a stack of colored paper.  Each student chose a color of paper and entered the room to find a welcome sign on the Smart board that instructed them to sit wherever they chose.

Five Easy Pieces
After the bell rang to start class, I passed out the instructions to Five Easy Pieces without any explanation or guidance.  (Well, I did have to tell them where the scissors were...)  There were groans and complaints.  That didn't really surprise me, though.

One thing I learned from this activity is that my Algebra 2 group this year is made up of students of varying abilities.  Last year, I had 12 Algebra 2 students.  This year, I have almost 40.  More students are taking Algebra 2, and that is a very good thing!  Many of my students have a very weak Algebra 1 foundation, but I think that with a lot of hard work, they will be able to be successful.  

Some groups finished the entire activity in twenty-five minutes.  Other groups struggled to get the pieces cut out and table of equations written in fifty minutes.  Some groups were willing to try the logic puzzles.  Others gave up as soon as they saw the logic puzzles.  I'm thankful for the insight provided by this activity, and I think it's definitely a keeper!  

With my Algebra 1 kiddos, we played the game 31-derful.  One thing I'm going to definitely have to work on with my Algebra 1 students is listening and following directions.  When I explained the rules to the game (which was made much easier with Sarah Rubin's great graphics!) many of my students did not listen well or stopped listening after they thought they knew how the game went.  As a result, many of my students thought that only the rows had to add up to 31.  They were a little made after discovering that they weren't actually done with the puzzle because their columns did not add up to 31 as well.  

31-derful
I was disappointed with how my students did with this activity.  In my three Algebra 1 classes, only one group of students was able to successfully complete the puzzle.  A lot of my students decided that this puzzle was impossible.  They were quick to grow frustrated and give up.  We're definitely going to have to work on persevering in problem solving this year!

31-derful
I did learn a very important lesson on this first day of school.  They make special decks of cards to play pinochle.  If you unintentionally give a group of students a deck of pinochle cards to play 31-derful with, they will get extremely frustrated.  You will wonder why they are only using 9s, 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces to build their array of cards.  They will be wondering why those are they only cards you gave them.  Eventually, you will look at the box of cards and see that it is a pinochle deck.  You will google pinochle and learn that a pinochle deck consists of eight each of the above cards.

8 comments:

  1. 5 Easy pieces sounds like a great first day activity! I think I will squeeze that one in. One question that I struggled with in my first year was what to do with groups that finished early. You mentioned some finished in 1/2 the time. What did you have them do?

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    1. This summer, I purchased a class set of tangrams. I don't teach geometry, but I thought they would be fun to pull out every once in a while and play with in algebra. So, when groups finished the task early, I handed each student a bag of tangrams and instructed them to build a square using all of the pieces. That managed to keep them quite occupied and frustrated. :)

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  2. I am so glad to see your feedback about 31-derful. I am a first year teacher and was thinking about doing it with my Algebra 1 class. I am also curious about if you have tried your laminator yet...I purchased the same one but haven't received it yet. I read your blog all of the time and am using some of your things for my classroom so thank you!

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    1. I bought my laminator last summer, and I've gone through over 300 laminating sheets. I LOVE my laminator! I think you're going to love it!

      Thanks for reading my blog!

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  3. Sarah, thanks for sharing these great activities! In what level class did you do the Exeter Math 5 Easy Pieces? And the Marshmallow Challenge? I love your blog and your enthusiasm!

    Wendy Menard

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    1. Hi Wendy! I did the 5 Easy Pieces with my Algebra 2 students. And, I did the Marshmallow Challenge with Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Statistics.

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    2. Hi my name is Leslie can you send me the link and answer key to five easy pieces please?

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  4. I'm confused because in Five Easy pieces it tells you what to do with each of four-fourths of the original square... Then it tells you to label the remaining square I... How is there a remaining square?

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