Trying to find math inside everything else

Archive for September, 2011

Math is like…

So on the first day of math class, I gave the students this little analogy:

“Math is like cooking. You don’t need to know how to do it to live your life, but if you don’t you need to always rely on someone else to do it for you, and it will wind up costing you more money. Most people know how to do the very basics, enough to get by, but those who really understand the concept make their lives richer and more enjoyable on a daily basis.”

I also told them math was like a language, a pretty familiar analogy. But then I asked them to come up with their own, and they created a poster based on the different answers.

Here’s some they said:

“Math is like your parents: sometimes you just don’t understand them, but they’re just trying to look out for you.”

“Math is like a wave: sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s small, but it never stops.”

“Math is like the subway: you can read the map and think you know where to go, but you don’t really know until you’re there.”

“Math is like time: there’s a new number every second.”

“Math is like climbing a mountain: it’s really hard, but you feel great when you get to the top.”

“Math is like HIV: it never goes away.”

The Downside of Incorporating Student Interests…

So in my quizzes I like to include some interests of mine that also happen to be student interests. My quiz this morning involved translating sentences from English into Mathematical Symbols. So I had sentences like:

Luigi can jump higher than Mario.

The Water Bending of Katara is greater than the Water Bending of Aang.

Knuckles can stay in the air longer than Tails.


The downside, of course, is that the students want to argue with me about the content of the sentence rather than translate the structure. Which is silly, because I am always right.

Habits of Mind Survey

Tomorrow is the first day of actual math class, so I’m starting off with my Habits of Mind survey that I created last year at the beginning of the year. I give some statements to the students and they can determine which habit of mind they represent. Then I’ll present them the challenge of forming themselves into groups so that each habit of mind is present in someone’s highest or second highest score. With 5 students per group and 8 habits, this shouldn’t be too challenging, but we’ll see how it goes….

Habits of Mind Survey

The Start of the New Year

The kids come in on Thursday and, unlike last year when I felt like floundering, I’m looking forward to it, head held high. One of the major reasons is that the 9th grade team has met several times this summer and we put together an awesome project for the first two days.

That’s right! A project, right away! And it even involves a field trip!

We wanted to start this year with a launch into something meaningful, and not just paperwork. So we are having a study of perspective that will feed into each of our opening units. The idea is to take notice of what some people find important and others do not, and see how yours are different.

What started all this was a trip to the High Line. The Friends of the High Line have a map on the pamphlet they give out, and I noticed many things on the High Line weren’t on the map, and some things (like the Wildflower Field) I wouldn’t have even noticed without the map. So we’re going to bring them on Friday morning and have them walk through, taking pictures and making observations on what they see, and comparing to how that’s different from what other people see and notice.

On Thursday, they’ll need to prepare, so they’ll be visiting stations that give them the tools they need:

  • How to make observations
  • How to take good photographs
  • How to compare points of view
  • How to set up a field guide and take notes
  • How to interpret a map and make your own

As well as some stations about perspective and point of view. (One involves examining the HSBC Different Values ad campaign, which I always loved.) On Friday we bring them to the entrance and let them go in groups of five, camera in hand, while the teachers fan out to stations along the line, every few blocks, so they have the freedom to move on their own, as long as they stop at the checkpoints along the way. (Don’t worry, the stations are by the exits to monitor them.)

We created this great field guide (mostly the work of fellow teacher Ms. Barnett for the layout) and we all hope to launch from this opening common activity. ELA to talk about identity, Science for scientific observation and experimentation, Global Studies for maps and geography, and myself into the Trip Line and benchmarks.

If the rest of the team agrees, I’ll see if I can put up the field guide here.