Math = Love: I'm a teacher! (Recap of Day 1 and 2)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm a teacher! (Recap of Day 1 and 2)

***Note: So, this post has been setting in my drafts for over a week now.  This is old news now, but I still wanted to post it.

Well, the first two days of school are over.  So, this means that I am officially a teacher!  The first two days went really well.  I love my job.  I love my school.  And, I love my colleagues.

My classroom is perfectly situated.  On one side of my classroom is the bathroom.  On the other side is the teacher's lounge which has my mailbox and the copy machine.  Then, right across the hall is the other math teacher.

Day 1
Day 1 went pretty much as I had planned.  I wrote about my plans for Day 1 here.  I explained the concept of bellwork to my students.  I don't think any of them have ever had a class before where they were expected to begin working on something before the bell rang.  Even though I had the instructions on the white board, many of the students still needed my prompting to get started.  

When I put up my first problem of the year, the students were not too thrilled about it.  Several asked me why we had to do this since it was the first day of school.  Here's the problem we solved:
Most of my students had no clue where to start.  But, I encouraged them to just try something and see if it worked.  There was instant frustration, but I told the students I was going to let them struggle with the problem on their own for a few minutes.  We had some great discussions about why you couldn't just put ten zeros or a nine followed by nine zeros.

For the first six class periods, I let the students try by themselves for a few minutes, then I directed them to the board where we solved it together as a class.  I chose one student to give us a number to start with.  Then, as students found a problem with the number on the board, they would raise their hand.  I would call on a student to tell me what to change, and I would change it on the board.

This problem led to so many great conversations.  A lot of students wanted to give up.  They would even announce that they were giving up and put down their marker.  But, soon they would have marker in hand and be trying another strategy.

My last period of the day is an 8th grade Algebra 1 class.  My school district buses over the 8th graders each day to take Algebra 1 at the high school.  I love the excitement and zeal for math that these students bring to my classroom.  After letting the class struggle for a minute or two with the problem, I started to work the problem out on the board together.  But, everyone was so excited to see how we could edit our number and try to make it work that they ended up requesting to keep working by themselves.  I had several students arrive at the solution by themselves.  They would raise their hand to have their solution checked.  I would start checking to see if they had the proper number of each number.  As soon as I found a problem, the student would begin correcting and working again without any prompting.

One student announced: "I like this.  It's so hard, it's fun."  Another eighth grader told the class that this was his favorite class that day because it was the only class where they had done something other than listen to rules.

I love this problem.  It's a definite keeper.  It's the type of problem that students will take one look at deem impossible.  The excitement on their faces when they finally find the solution is so worth it!

I did have the students compose their #MathIs tweets as an exit ticket.  They really enjoyed the activity, and it was such a great window into how these students view math.  So many of them wrote of their attitude towards math.  Some were honest and told of their dislike for math but also acknowledged its usefulness.

Day 2

My goal for Day 2 was to practice student names, find out more about my students, tell them about my goals for the year, have my students set goals of their own, and review the syllabus.

So many of my students were unfamiliar with the word "syllabus."  Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I was always presented with a syllabus at the beginning of the year.  Some were more detailed than others, but it was expected that we would go over the syllabus sometime during the first week of school.
Thanks to some twitter inspiration, I formatted my syllabus as a brochure.  I mainly did this so that students would be able to glue their syllabus into their interactive notebooks.  For the front of the brochure, I modified Dan Meyer's syllabus template.    

For the first day, I also stole Dan Meyer's Who I Am sheet.  I had my students complete this as bellwork.  Then, each student told me and the class their name and chose one fact off the sheet to share with the class.  It was an eye-opening experience.  My students' favorite tv shows.  I've never heard of them in my life.  Awkward.  Ridiculousness.  Call of the Wild Man.  They were pretty appalled that I'd never heard of any of those shows.

I told them that I honestly didn't even own a television right now.  I keep planning on buying one, but then I start reading reviews, discover that there is no perfect television, and I end up buying nothing.  

On the back of their Who I Am sheet, I had each student write 3 goals for this school year and 3 goals for the future.  I'm so glad I did this.  As I'm getting to know my students better, I can keep referring back to these sheets.  

One of the last things I did on Day 2 was try this mathematical magic trick out with my students.  Here's the link.  You should honestly try this out because it's pretty cool.  I did it at home, and it worked.  I thought it would spark a good conversation with my students.

***Spoiler alert:  If you plan on trying this out and being amazed, do it now before reading the rest of this post!

The activity ended up going terribly.  You see, I assumed that my students would be able to come up with a country that started with the letter D.  (The version I used actually asked for a European Country that started with D.)  No.  One student suggested that maybe the answer was Denver.  They told me that they didn't know the names of countries.  Each hour, someone would finally think of Denmark.  Then, they would start telling everybody else.  And, then they would say their next answer out loud and then their next.  So, by the time we got to the end, it wasn't really "amazing" that I could tell them what their answer was since they had kept saying them out loud.     


  1. ok, now I wish I could go back in time and do my first 2 days the way you did yours. :-)

  2. Great job starting out! I use that mathematical trick when I teach my sixth graders Algebra and variables. Instead of a European country i do a state that begins with that number (it is D also--Delaware is the only state) and then the second letter-- most of the kids pick Delaware-- Elephant. Sometimes of course I get the kids with Delaware-eagle, or emu.. but most go the elephant route. They love to take it home and try it out on their parents.
    Please check out my blog if you have time! I'm a newbie, and funny our blog backgrounds are the same. :)


  3. Is the answer 6210001000? Is there more than one solution?

  4. Don't worry found the answer. Love that problem. Going to use that with my A2 class. Thanks.

  5. What are the "fill-ins" for your 2, 1, 25, 3, 1?

    1. Hi Justin! Here is what I had the students fill in the blanks.

      2 Crucial Rules
      * Work Hard
      * Be Nice

      1 Bathroom Pass

      25 Percent of Grade is this Notebook

      3 Daily Supplies
      * Notebook
      * Something to Write With
      * Folder

      1 Belief
      * Math is learned by doing.

  6. What goes on the back of the right side of the brochure

  7. funny - years ago I did the "math trick' with my sixth graders and NEVER. AGAIN. I even gave them the example of Denmark but they would much rather use Delaware or DENVER!!! I think I just gave up and never even made it to the punch line. One time I did get Dominican Republic from an adult...
    anyway thanks so much for all you share - very helpful