During the first bell of my Seminar 1 class we finished up a lesson on absolute value that we had started the previous day. The kids seemed really dead but we powered through and answered the questions.

I was using a deck of cards to randomly call on students to give their answers to the questions. I kept all of the spades for myself and then passed out the other three suits. I would pull a card and then had any student that had the same value to raise their hand and then I decided who to call on from there. I shuffled the deck each time so that everyone could still expect to be called on even if their number had already been pulled.

In 2nd block, I decided to try a game that I had in my head since we were working on absolute value. Here are the rules:

- The winner is the person at the end with the most cards
- Number cards are face value, Ace is 1, Jack 11, Queen 12, and King 13. Jokers are 0
- Black suits are positive numbers and Red suits are negative numbers
- You win cards from other people by counting to three and each flipping over the top card from your stack at the same time. The first student to say which number represented by the cards is closer to zero gets to keep both

And that’s it! It’s just a modified War where instead of high card it is the number closer to zero.

In the future I plan to try a variation where I ask the students to add the numbers instead. (Subtraction wouldn’t work, unless I can figure out a way to make the order of the subtraction instantly clear.)

The kids really seemed to enjoy it. They were walking around challenging each other, arguing over who won, talking about absolute value.

And we had a little fun on Friday so a win.

So far this year I have been focusing more heavily on my Seminar class than my Geometry, and that is partly because this is attempt 3 for Geometry and partly because the Seminar class is brand new so I have lots of new things going on rather than re-hashes of old things.

We are in the logic and proof unit of Geometry and as much as I love it, I can tell it is a huge struggle for a lot of the students. I don’t remember learning this material in high school, but I do think it’s appropriate for the class. It’s tough because Geometry feels most like the “pure math” that I did in undergrad and graduate school and so it makes sense to really train students how to argue using logical structures and write proofs beyond just a standard HS two-column structure, but at the same time the material is very challenging and asks for level of performance and understanding that doesn’t quite mesh with some other plug-and-chug aspects that are still in this geometry curriculum.

So I was worried the class was kind of dry even though I varied the type of activities and kept the lecturing to a minimum as much as possible. We started with review of yesterday’s material (Conditional statements. Yes, it was a worksheet, but at some point you have to just try identifying the parts of a conditional statement and writing the converse, inverse, and contra-positive), then after going over the answers as a class (I did random card calling) we did an exploration activity, followed by class synthesis, then direct instruction (lecture) on the Law of Detachment and Law Of Syllogism. I should have stopped at that point and had them practice, practice, practice for the rest of the day.

But the pacing guide calls for us to do bi-conditional statements on the same day, so I continued with a great exploration activity from our textbook that has examples and non-examples of “rectapentagons”, a shape “made up” by a “student”. (*looks directly into the camera*: “scare quotes”). This worked pretty well as not only a break with more visual and accessible ideas, but also was a pretty decent intro to using bi-conditional statements as a way to write definitions.

We will have to practice on Monday. (And of course, move on to the next topic. But luckily I have been front-loading algebraic proof since day one so we have some more wiggle room this unit.)

I started to lose them at the end, I could tell. But I have a class of 31. It is a block class at the end of the day and it was Friday. They were ready. to. go.

And so was I so that’s all I’m gonna write.

EDIT: I had two helpful experiences concerning my geometry class on the Friday after I posted this.

The first was while talking to my friend and colleague, Chris after work. We were discussing the length of block classes and how difficult it can be for mature, well-adjusted, high-performing graduate students to focus for ninety minutes of class so it was no surprise that our high school students struggled with it. I felt a little better about how much we had gotten done in Geometry that day.

The second was a brief talk with my boss, Jeff Temoney, at the Friday night football game. He said he had been outside my room listening to me teach for a bit and that “I was working them hard on a Friday afternoon.” That also made me feel good that the class had been going better than I had originally thought.