First days…

Based on my Google Reader, it seems like nearly every other school started before us, but we finally had our first day of classes last Weds, and it went great!  My first class of the year was a double period of 7th grade pre-algebra, and I was fairly undecided about what we would do until just a day or two before, but I am really pleased with how it played out.

We started with a random seating “assignment” using a very sophisticated match-the-post-its system :)  and then opened class with a few business items (supply boxes, etc), and then jumped into thinking about what the heck pre-algebra might mean.  The prompt was to take a blank piece of paper, and in the middle, write “pre-algebra”, and in the upper left, right “I think…”.  I then asked them to decorate the page with words, symbols, pictures, or other visual representations of what that might mean.  As expected, some kids were really inspired…  but a few seemed to be at a loss.  For the ones who were struggling, I asked them to imagine “What might your paper look like after you’ve been doing pre-algebra?”  I also overheard some good discussions, including, “What’s that thing where there’s a letter instead of a number?  What’s that called?” “Oh, yeah… I don’t know…” – I suggested that if she didn’t know the name, she could just write the description or an example.

Next, they flipped the page over and wrote pre-algebra again, only this time, the prompt was: “My book thinks…”  We passed out books and they glanced through it, and then tried to represent what they saw on their page.  At the end, our class whiteboard looked like this:


 (The inner square contains their ideas, the outer is what they saw in the book.  Clearly, the many pictures of animals to be found in the text was a source of much intrigue :)

For the remainder of class (it was a double period), we played a game I named “Always A Winner”, which was adapted from problems shared by Tatiana Shubin (a fantastic woman I had the privilege of learning from this summer at the Math Circle training at Notre Dame), on the Math Teacher Circle page.  I have more to say about it, but for now… the students were really into it!  Before we started, we had a brief discussion about problem-solving, and went over some of the tools available for them in the classroom (paper, writing utensils, blocks, whiteboards, etc), and I gave the disclaimer that, “Sometimes, we’ll work on problems that I know the answer to, and sometimes we’ll work on problems where I don’t know the answer.  This is one of those times!”  They didn’t seem too alarmed, which was good.  Once we got started, they worked (and played) hard for a good half hour or so, and I was most impressed that no one got too frustrated or gave up.  I have more to say, but have too much to do before taking kids out on a trip this week.  The moral of the story: My first ever math class went well!  We talked, we laughed, we worked hard… and now we’re off to the backcountry :)


4 thoughts on “First days…

  1. Sounds like a productive and successful first day! I’m happy to hear it. I like your activity where you ask them what they think the class will be about and what the book thinks the class will be about. Unfortunately for me the picture you shared of your whiteboard isn’t loading so I can’t see the final product. :-(

    Have a great trip with the students!

  2. Pingback: New Bloggers Finish Line! Week Four of the Blogger Initiation | I Speak Math

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