Math = Love: Rulers And My Sanity

## Monday, February 10, 2014

### Rulers And My Sanity

Remember how I said my students weren't really in the mood to be at school last week since all the schools around us were out for the snow?  Well, maybe it wasn't the best day to decide that my freshmen Algebra 1 students needed to use rulers to complete their assignments.

You see, we've been working on linear functions.  Lately, we've been graphing points and determining the equation of the line.  Since my students draw like I do, it is usually best to use a ruler to connect the points.  This lets us see EXACTLY where the line crosses the y-axis.

Monday, I asked students to get a ruler right when they walked in my classroom.  I didn't want to waste valuable class time getting up from our seats to retrieve rulers.  However, they could not put their rulers down during bellwork and a slope music video.

One of the rulers in my box is a folding yardstick.  My kids are AMAZED by this thing!  One of my students impressed herself and the rest of the class (and me!) by making the yardstick resemble the journey of Slope Dude.

 Slope Dude - Ruler Style

It ended up leading to a great conversation between two students because the part of the ruler that represents a positive slope looks like it represents a negative slope if looked at from the opposite side of the ruler.  It depends on which side of the ruler you are facing, and some of my students failed to realize this.

I spent so much of my day saying things like:

Stop hitting each other with your rulers.

Look guys, I know I specifically said that your hands should not be touching your ruler.  But, that does not mean it is okay for you to touch your hands to your pencil and then use your pencil to play with your ruler.

Some days, it seriously seems like I am teaching first grade

Then, one of my students lost his ruler.  We had just finished watching our song over slope when one of my students announced that he couldn't find his ruler.  How does one even go about losing a ruler while sitting at their desk?!?

Other students quickly chimed in with advice for finding the missing ruler.  Did you put it in your backpack?  Is it in your notebook?  Did it fall on the floor?  Did you throw it behind the radiator?  Did you put the ruler down your pants?  (I promise.  I can't make this stuff up.  It was Pajama Day, but I don't know if that makes it any better or even worse.  What's even more alarming is that my student ran his hands up and down his legs to see if the ruler was in his pants.)

Finally, the ruler was found!  Hallelujah!  "Where was it?", you ask.  Well, he had found a way to wedge the ruler between the bottom of his desk and the pipes that are attached to the legs of the desk.  Then, he had forgotten about putting his ruler there.

I present to you: the missing ruler.  This missing ruler was such an ordeal that I insisted on taking a picture of it before moving on with class.

 The Case Of The Missing Ruler

Lesson learned.  Maybe I should pass out the rulers right before students need them.  This will help avoid wasting class time AND maybe save my sanity!  :)

1. Oh rulers, the great math tool that is used for so much more. Did they play Helicopter with them? That use to be a favorite in my room. Or vibrate them off the edge of a desk to make fun noises? I was able to combat bad behaviors be having a set of "crappy" rulers printed and cut out of a sheet of paper (use to be standard issue on old NY state tests). I always handed out the nice plastic rulers first, but if they couldn't use them appropriately, I quickly swapped it out for a paper ruler. No one wanted to be the kid with the paper ruler... it was wrinkled and had a yellow stain... some claim it even smelled funny... but it worked like a charm! The possibility of having to use a paper ruler cut out most negative behaviors.

1. This is brilliant!

2. I have found a quick swap with an index card for a straight edge works great!

1. I didn't think about substituting other than a ruler since we only needed a straight edge. Love this idea!

3. I have a ton of old playing cards that no longer make complete decks. I deal them out for drawing straight lines. They are smaller and more manageable for most of my middle schoolers (it amazes me how many of my kids can't draw a straight line with a ruler.)

1. Finally! A use for the partial decks of cards that are in my cabinet! Thanks for sharing!

4. My very first class, my very first day, we found 7 rules in that exact same place. Once one person discovered one then we had to stop and look at all the desks. It was like Christmas. :)

1. That is too funny! If too many rulers go missing, I know where I'll be looking!

5. This post made me laugh, not at the frustration you endured, but at the fact that I know exactly how you feel. It's a lot easier to laugh later on rather than in the moment, but we have to laugh or we would cry!!! Oh the things that students do! :)

1. Agreed! I do so much laughing! (Which is MUCH better than the alternative...)

6. My students use their school id as a straight edge. This seems to take the novelty out of playing with something "new". My geometry students however actually needed a ruler and I had one student ask me today if he could break his ruler. When I replied no, he offered to pay me \$1 if he could break his ruler. (I still said no) This is also the same student who brought in an entire bag of pencils when I pointed out to him that he always borrows my pencils and never returns this. I have all of my materials "tagged" with pink polka dotted duct tape, so he tagged all of the pencils that he brought in. He has his redeeming qualities.

1. If we ever get student ids, I'm definitely going to have my students use them as straight edges. Brilliant!

And, asking to pay to break a ruler? I'm constantly amazed at the things students come up with! One of my students did break his ruler last week. He proceeded to tape the multiple pieces back together, hoping I wouldn't notice. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's not quite usable anymore...