Thursday, August 30, 2012

The First Days

We just completed our second day of school today, which means I have now had each of my classes once (we're on an A/B day rotation).  I am happy to say that the Algebra I Questionnaire and Gatorade Problem were both successes and served the purposes I had hoped.  In both of my Algebra I classes, students were excited to share their answers on the Questionnaire and we definitely began to establish a strong classroom community as we laughed at responses and saw how different people interpreted the various questions. 

The two questions I found most productive to share were #1, What is the largest number you can write in the space below, and #7, In as many steps as possible explain how to make a bowl of cereal. Question one really allowed students to see how they could interpret questions differently from one another.  Students had numbers followed by lots of zeros, as many 9s as could fit in the box, physically large numbers that filled the space, and the infinity symbol.  Question seven allowed students to see the importance of detail when sharing their work with one another.  We also had great conversations about being respectful of classmates' work, organizing and writing work clearly, and the fact that we can learn from seeing others' and recognizing our own mistakes. 

Doing the Gatorade Problem with the aid of a document camera this year definitely beat not having one like last year.  After sharing their "safe" answers from the Questionnaire, many students wanted to volunteer their work for the Gatorade Problem.  It was great to share student work in this fashion; students shared correct answers, incorrect answers, answers in price per ounce, ounce per price, comparing the same number of ounces, and different numbers of big bottles and 6-packs.  I didn't get to finish part two in my second class, but I think by the end of class all students had a basic grasp (which is hopefully a review), of finding a rate.  In addition to the math, students recognized the importance of labeling units and organizing their work in a way that their classmates can follow.

Already, I feel as though I have established a better community of learners who are willing to share and discuss their work than I have in the past.  I look forward to many more discussions and analysis of student work by students in my classes this year. 

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