Friday, January 6, 2017

Maybe I need some new moves

But I don't stop asking. Will you please dance with me?

Today the 8th grade walked in, grabbed their exit slips, their mini grades that have become a hook for them to stay engaged in the material day by day instead of cramming at the end, and had a seat. I started teaching before they were all in the room. Notebooks were out. They were scrambling.

It was introduction to mixtures. It's like, the nightmares you have about your Algebra I class? They are probably about mixture problems. Things like:

Andy has 12 ounces of a 5% alcohol solution. He wants to create a solution with a concentration of 30% alcohol. How many ounces of a 50% alcohol solution should he add to the 12 ounces to create the new solution?

There are several variations. And they are where every Algebra I class comes to a grinding halt and has to regroup. They are hard for the first time. Math is hard. It's not just computation. Sometimes kids panic. But I take my time on this topic and every year, they HATE mixtures but they know them.

I just taught away. I wrote out a formula. A grid. A couple of problems. And as I turned the page, as I turned page SIX of my notes, Hank raised his hand.

"I don't have any idea what's going on."

He stated this without contempt. Jenny nodded. Kelly started to chime in but I held up my hand.

I stood up. I walked over to my closet saying, "ok, let's break it down to a simpler problem. What if I had some white beads that sold for $1 a cup. And some shiny colored beads that sold for $4 a cup?"

I opened the closet door and took out a giant mixing bowl of white beads and set them down on the table in front of Vince. And then another big bowl of colored beads next to them. I produced two measuring cups and held up a cup of white beads.

"But I want a mixture of beads that are worth $3 a cup."

I smiled as Kelly asked me how I had all those beads, why, what was going on?

We went through the basics again. I told them to put the exit slips in their folders. I told them that when I taught Ariel's brother's class these lessons, it took them 5 days and one of the girls cried.

Nervous laughter.

Maybe my best days aren't behind me.

Maybe breaking them down a little worked. Maybe creating more structure is what they needed. Maybe making me the enemy? Seriously, making me the enemy, let them not be afraid to finally raise a hand and ask a question, be a hero instead of the idiot who doesn't understand.

It was only one day. But it was a good one.

I can't change the direction of the wind but for damned sure I can adjust my sails.


  1. Fabulous. (And I might be the one crying, if I were there.)

  2. Better. Good for you and them. Hope you have more of these days and less of the other ones. Hang in there. You really are so good for them, whether they figure it out this year or down the road a few years.