At the end of yesterday I felt like I had taught a week rather than just the first day.

Today was better.

Currently I am still reviewing pre-algebra topics with my students. Yesterday we practiced adding and subtracting signed numbers. Today we practiced multiplying them. All three of my block classes were much more confident with the multiplication. They had no problems telling me “a negative times a negative is a positive” and the other rules.

The activity that I tried with them was four 4’s. I don’t know exactly where I first saw this activity, but I am sure that it was #mtbos and for some reason Fawn Nguyen and Derek Orr come to mind. I’m too lazy to do a twitter search.

To play Four 4’s, I told the students that they had four 4’s and an unlimited amount of operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division–even exponentiation) to make as many numbers as possible. I gave the examples of 4+4+4+4 = 16 and 4/4 + 4/4 = 2 and then asked something my analysis professor Dr. Seubert would always ask his students,

“Do you see how to play the game?”

Most of the students did.

My goal for this was (1) to have the students practice order of operations in an unusual way–each new number they came up with had to be justified with work explaining each step under PEMDAS and (2) to get a chance to do some math rather than only drill on a worksheet practicing. (The worksheet did come, but later during the lesson.)

Some of the students really took to this activity but others were clearly very lost. I came around to the groups as they were working and helped to get the lost ones started. Without steps to follow they needed an extra push. Most of them caught on.

I tried to make it into an actual game rather than just Seubert’s metaphor for doing math and challenged them to come up with as many new numbers with just the four 4’s as possible.

The mistake I made with this in first block was telling them that they were going to judge each other’s work (extra order of operations practice) halfway through the game. They were very reluctant and wanted me to check everyone’s work to determine the winner.

I rectified this in the next two blocks and the game went smoother. Although the final block was the most reluctant to try the game.

Overall I was pleased with the activity but it was clear that the order of operations practice sheet that I gave them in class after the game was too easy. They blazed through it far quicker than I anticipated. I will have to follow up with more difficult problems as a bellringer tomorrow and possibly a few homework problems. I am not sure.

On the classroom management side, I think today went better today than yesterday. I am still very much a rookie. One student kept getting up to throw inconsequential things in the trash. Instead of asking him to stay seated I opted to move the trashcan to the wall next to his seat instead. This seemed to work.

I also had to make sure that I talked to a few students before one class to redirect their behavior from the previous day. This worked spectacularly for one but not as well for the other. I have to will myself to confront misbehavior. I can do it, but it does not come easy to me.

According to the pacing guide and the other teachers, I should be giving the first unit test–over all of the review material–by the end of next week. That terrifies me, but at least I have 90 minute block classes.