Math = Love: Big Hits of Late

Monday, October 8, 2012

Big Hits of Late

I'm not having the best of days.  I seem to have had quite a few of these of late.  Don't get me wrong.  I still absolutely love the teaching part of my job.  It's the other aspects of my job that have me frustrated.  There is so much drama that comes with working in a public school.  I try to keep up with everything that's going on, but it just ends up making me mad.

On top of the school drama, one student both entered and left my room today in tears.  Another student has decided to refuse all of my offers to help.  She wants me to let her fail.  I can't let myself do that, but at the same time I don't know how to help someone who won't let me help them.  And, I'm pretty sure that I teach at a school with an absence epidemic.  These students miss school for EVERYTHING under the sun.

So, to help cheer myself up and remind myself why I do what I do, I am going to blog over something happy and exciting.  In the past week, I have had students ask me if we could do certain activities again because they enjoyed them so much the first time.  

Clock Review Partners

I learned about this strategy from the Global Math Department's meeting over favorite review games.  I actually haven't used this as a review game, but I have used it on days where I need students to do a ton of practice.  Instead of just giving them a worksheet, I ask them to draw a clock on a piece of scrap paper.

Clock Partners Strategy

They then get about a minute to make appointments for 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock.  I love listening to them make their appointments.  I often hear gems such as "Sorry, I'm booked."  I divide the worksheet into four sections so they can complete one section of the worksheet with each partner.  I really like that students aren't stuck with the same partner for the entire worksheet with this strategy.  Sometimes they are working with friends.  Other times they are working with students they don't know as well.  Sometimes it is somebody at the same level or different level.

Since students know they only have so long before they will switch partners, they are more motivated to work efficiently.  Upon googling this strategy, I ran across a more detailed explanation on the blog of a social studies teacher.  She has students create many more appointments than I do.  Her explanation is definitely worth a read! 

She picks some of her students' partners ahead of time to ensure that some of the pairings will achieve a specific purpose.  I did like the idea of creating an appointment clock to be used for the entire semester or year.  Once this has been created, it would become super easy to group students at any time.  Plus, I think this would make a great addition to our interactive notebooks.

My 8th graders begged to do clock partners again the other day.  Of course, I had to let them!  This is a strategy I have used with both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 students.  It has worked well for both.  It's a definite keeper!      

The Basketball Game

When teaching my Algebra 1 students to solve equations, I used a basketball game that I found online to motivate my students to do some extra practice.  These were the same types of problems that I could have written on the Smart Board, but because they were in a game, my students did a lot less complaining.
Screen Shot from the beloved Basketball Game

The idea of the game is simple.  You get the question right, you get to try to make a basket.  To shoot the basket, you click the mouse twice.  I'm sure there is some advanced strategy to making the virtual basket, but I could never figure it out.  I watched five different classes play this game over the course of a day, and I still couldn't figure out why some shots went in and others didn't.

I let the students take turns coming up and shooting the baskets.  It served as a small break between solving equations.  The students really got into trying to make as many baskets as possible.  It was fun to watch.  The bell would ring and the students would want to hurry and solve one more equations so they could attempt just one more basket.

Now, if we ever have a few minutes left at the end of class, students will occasionally ask if we can play the basketball game again.  


  1. Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for this blog!!! I am an elementary school teacher who is taking a few years off to raise my children, and last year I started working with middle and high school students part-time as a home based instructor for my school division. This year I am finding myself creating a lot of math lessons from scratch, and your blog is really coming in handy!

    I'm sorry that you're having a rough couple of days- we all have those days as teachers! Keep your head up and know that you are an AMAZING teacher! Try to learn to let go of the things that you do not have control over (easier said than done, I KNOW). Focus on the things that you can control, and be sure to spend some time each week doing something fun that is NOT school-related (also easier said than done).

    It may also help to keep a stash of chocolate in your classroom... ;)

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I totally agree with Katie.

    I wrote you this long response and it disappeared on the Ipad! I will try to recap.
    Hang in there. I just switched to our neighborhood HS after 16 years at my former HS...the same school my daughters go to! I know what you mean. I am not angry, as much as I am just sad. These kids are shuffled from home to home, playing one parent against the other, or their parents of the disruptive ones are too busy going to "Burning Man" to make sure the kid is getting the support he or she needs. There is high absenteeism, and I heard one parent when picking up her son in 3rd grade (the child now is home schooled, big in our area too) shout out, "We're free, we're free!" Too bad the rest of are not and we are trying to do the right thing within the system! I just want to bring them home and see what it is like to be in a family that eats dinner together and demands that homework be done before we watch our taped Daily Show!

    Teaching can also be very isolating and lonely. Overworked and completely stressed, with way too many papers to grade because the class sizes continue to grow, people just don't seem to have the time to stop in and say, "how's it going?" I miss talking best practices AND about the amazing soup I made last night.

    Use us as your community who will support you and like Katie said, hide some chocolate in your room.

    Yours, Amy