Rookie Year: Day 85 or The Peanut Gallery

Alternative title: We’re gonna need some bigger dice.

Today went very smoothly.

Since it is the first week I am still reinforcing the class routines for the beginning and end, but already these classes have been better at it or I have been better at enforcing it. Although it is only the second day of the new semester I think I can already tell that these classes are going to be less stressful than last semester. However, my 5-6 block is right after class and it is my largest one. If I don’t set a good tone early I think they could get a little out of control. To keep them in line today I grabbed some peanuts and when some students started to whisper I would throw a peanut at them and tell them “No comments from the peanut gallery”. I don’t know what made me think of it at the time. It wasn’t something that I planned ahead. Of course this would be more of a distraction than a help if I did it every time so it really was only a one time thing to make a point and I used the “teacher look”, proximity, and regular old verbal redirection the rest of the time. For the most part this worked and I will just have to keep reinforcing. These classes really are more focused than last semester.

So after the bellringer I had some short guided notes for us to work through. Really what I am doing is continuing to acclimate these new students to the definitions and explanations I want to use for solving equations. The notes were just a 1/3 sheet of paper when fill in the blank definitions that I asked the students to share the answers to. Most of them were common definitions they should know, like expression, equation, solution, but I wasn’t sure if they had been taught to think about equations as “Always, Sometimes, or Never” true, so I emphasized that and gave them some examples.

Then we started working through the Desmos activity on systems of equations. I forced the class to stick together on the same Desmos slide, asking them to clarify what each slide was asking, and what their thoughts on the answers were. I got some good answers and explanations out of them, but I was still doing a lot of talking. It’s only day 2. Hopefully they will become less shy. I am also concerned because it seems to me that the spirit of these Desmos activities is to put the students in groups and have them answer the questions by talking to one another, but so far when I tried that last semester, students would ignore the work and talk or not understand the question and put low quality answers in. This was the only way I could think of to force them to engage and think about the material. Essentially I used the activity as a guide for an interactive lecture format. I will see how well it works when I give them some problems to try, but so far I was pleased with how they responded.

I found myself with about 5 minutes more period than lesson today and I had to think of something quick. My cousin who teaches math in Indiana recently gave me a bunch of math supplies (Thanks, Morgan!) and among those were four giant foam dice. To kill the last five minutes after they finished their exit ticket earlier than anticipated I started rolling dice and asking probability questions like “What are the chances that I roll an even sum?”, “Okay the sum is currently 7, what are the chances I roll a total sum of 12?”, or even “Okay I rolled triple 1’s, what were the chances of that?” (I told them there’s a reason I never gamble.) I gave out some candy to those who answered correctly. Some basic probability standards are included in the curriculum for this course and I figure that if I can sneak some small lessons in as we go in this way it won’t feel so disjointed for the students. Plus they really seemed to like me rolling giant dice at the end of class. I need bigger dice. Like, as big as me dice. That would be awesome.

Thanks for reading.

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