Student engagement is a funny thing.

On twitter I’ve been pretty critical about using extrinsic rewards to increase student engagement.

Today was our 100th day of school (as calculated by our students!) To celebrate we made 100 piece trail mix. Our trail mix included: cheerios, chex, raisins, and M&Ms. Candy! Talk about extrinsic student engagement! Before we dove in to the rewards food, I gave my class the following problem:

We have 4 ingredients to make trail mix. How many different combinations of ingredients can we have if our trail mix only has 100 total pieces?

The students persisted through their work on this word problem, until they arrived at various solutions based on their calculations and personal taste. For instance, one student is allergic to nuts and could only eat the cheerios and raisins, so that impacted his work on the problem. The students worked diligently and happily ate the trail mix once they had arrived at a reasonable solution.

However, after class I channeled Graham Fletcher and Dan Meyer to try to make this mathematical experience a more rich one for the students. So, here is a preview of the 3-act task we will be doing tomorrow in class…

# A Better Shapes Class

Our Hallway Display

Since some of my classes are studying geometry this trimester this was a fortuitous release.  My students, who are in self-contained special ed classes, can identify benchmark shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles and circles), but we are currently investigating how squares and rectangles relate as quadrilaterals.  This book was the best way for our students to explore shape properties without having to read, write and remember a lot of vocabulary.  We were able to discuss what they saw and critique the arguments of classmates in a safe space, because all arguments were valid for one reason or another.  The elimination of the potential to be flat out “wrong” created a safe space for my student population.  As long as there was some semblance of justification, you were “right.” The students liked that!

# #10goodthings I’ve Learned This Year

First, I read @stoodle’s Exorcising Teacher Demons post.  In his post what stood out to me was that he took the “high road.”  Instead of actually venting for a whole blog post, which could be counter-productive, Matt chose to take his co-worker’s challenge:

If you were asked to come up with 10 things that you’re doing well this year, you could do it.

Then Meg Craig put out the call…

Here is my response to both Matt and Meg, but with a twist.  This year I have learned so much from the twitter/blog community known as #MTBoS (math twitter blogosphere) that I needed to show all of these wonderful educators just how important their impact is for educators across the country.  So, I decided to write 10 good things I’ve learned.

# We Made a Math Game!

Well, to be more precise we made a puzzle-y, game-y type thing.

Let me explain.

If you follow me on twitter, then you saw this little bit of nerdiness…

I bought this dice bonanza bucket at Target during Christmas break.  I was very motivated to put the new dice to work for my students!

As I wrote about previously, one of my classes is studying algebra.  The contents of the dice bonanza varied between number dice, dot dice, color dice, and others it reminded me of Transition to Algebra like this:

So my assistant teacher and I put the dice to work in this puzzle game we called Dice ID.  Here is the instruction booklet and here is the game board.

And here is how it went in our class last Friday…

# #NYCMathTweetup

This is a re-post from the Global Math Department Newsletter from 12/23/14

What do you get when you mix cautious optimism, nervous excitement, math nerds, pedagogical dreamers, and the internet?