Polar Battleship

A student I taught last year came to the math office to ask their teacher something. I offered them a lollipop from my desk, and asked them (as I always do for payment) one thing about their day that is good, bad, or neutral. They answered… and then with a bounce in their voice, they said “How about you, Mr. Shah? What good happened to you today?” It was so sweet!

In two of my precalculus classes, we had time to play polar battleship, which was fun!

In the third class, the kids were super distracted and so we didn’t get a chance to play it.

However a student did draw a picture of me on the board:


So I won’t be typing here for a couple of weeks, when I will be enjoying life!!!



Today students took a test on the Law of Sines and the Law of Cosines. One student, when turning it in, told me it was their favorite unit. I told them that this moment was going to be my one good thing from today!


After school today, I administered the New York Math League contest for a few students. And while they were taking it, I also took it! I remember doing these contests when I was in high school. What was awesome was that I finished all 6 questions and I felt pretty good about all of them. I had a lot of fun thinking through the last question. Unfortunately, I got the probability question wrong BUT I GOT THE LAST PROBLEM CORRECT. And I felt really proud because I had to really problem solve… And I loved, afterwards, trying to explain to a student how and why I approached the problem in the way I did, and what two key thoughts unlocked the problem for me.

I haven’t often had a chance this year to sit down and just “do” math for fun. But this was a lovely 30 minutes of problem solving which kept my brain whirring.


Last week, a teacher told me about a surprise party they had for a student whose birthday it was… they turned off the lights and when the student came in, they yelled “SURPRISE!” And then she said a student in her class said “Mr. Shah never forgets anyone’s birthday.” And that was sweet for her to tell me… and today we had a birthday in my class, and a student said “Do you know whose birthday it is?” and I said “OBVIOUSLY.”

A student came into a class today, and said “I LOVE MATH” and that just made me happy.

I held a baby today

Today was “Packer in Action” Day, which is a day where classes are suspended and there are speakers and affinity spaces and activities around DEI work. One thing I was nervous about was facilitating an advisory activity. I don’t know why but I always get nervous that kids are going to roll their eyes or not engage seriously when I have to run something around getting kids to debrief or reflect. But it went pretty darn well.

I was in the front hallway and my friend who is a kindergarten teacher had her class there. She introduced me to her little ones and I crouched down and gave some kids some low fives and said hi. And then a current student I teach was hanging out with their little sibling in the class, and they pointed to me and said “this is my favorite teacher… he teaches math” and then I gave their sibling a high five and we danced around in a circle singing “math! math! math!” It was so cute and fun and I felt so special that someone said I was their favorite teacher.

We had the New York State poet laureate come speak to open up our day, and he said so many things that I wanted to remember. He spoke about vulnerability, silence and the power of silence, making sure those around you know you care about them while they are around to receive it, the challenge of receiving care, and so much more.

We had students perform “The Wolves” (a play) and I teach a lot of the kids who were in it, and they were fabulous and I totally got into it.

My department head gave birth and has been out on maternity leave. But she came by today to say hi to her advisory, and I got to meet (and hold) her baby for the first time. The radiant heat from a baby, and their smell… it really does something to you.

I feel seen…

A student told me today that they feel seen in my class. It was such an out of the blue thing to hear from a student. It felt good.

I had students debrief in class some of Anna Weltman’s Supermath and it was really lovely to listen to them discuss what they read in the book chapter they read. It was all about how an invitation isn’t enough to make someone feel accepted and like they belong into the mathematical community… and one student said “It’s like if you invite someone to sit with you at the lunch table, and then your group of friends don’t talk to them or bring them into the conversation.” I loved that.

At math club today, one of the leaders brought in one of those coin weighing problems. At the end, the solution was revealed and it hurt my head, and don’t think I understood it at all. But it was fun doing math with students — including a student who showed up who I teach but hasn’t been able to make it because they were in a different club that usually meets at that time.

“You can ask anyone…”

During precalculus long blocks, I had students switch up groups for the second half, as they work on a secret unit about matrices. (They worked on it for a third of the year without knowing it was about matrices.) I call these groups “conclaves” just for funsies. When I told students to get in their conclave groups, a student said “I LOVE CONCLAVE!” And I couldn’t tell if they were saying that seriously or mockingly (but not in a mean-spirited way). But they replied “You can ask anyone! I really love conclave!” and later they said they really like the content!


In my precalculus classes, I’m having students read Chapter 4 of the book Supermath by Anna Weltman. It’s a pretty fantastic book. We haven’t discussed any of it, yet, but a student told me after class today that one of their parents likes math and so they’ve been reading it too, along with us. 🙂

There must have been other good things… today was exhausting and it’s 4:30pm now and I still have another couple hours of work to do… and I’ve been working at full steam today. Let’s see…

I guess one good thing is that I’ve been crazy productive. Another good thing is that I met with the students who are doing an independent study with me, and we had fun using the code they wrote to start asking questions. One naturally came up with the next question I wanted them to investigate, which also made me happy.

Improved Class From Yesterday to Today

So I had a class yesterday where things didn’t go badly, but there wasn’t so “smooth” in terms of the intellectual development of the ideas that kids were taking in. But today, for a different section of the same class, I didn’t change my lesson plan but I gave a “big picture” framing of what was going to happen in their minds (i.e. “You’re going to do these problems algebraically. You might get confused and that’s okay. Then you’re going to use a ruler and a protractor and see how the algebra might connect up with the geometry of things… Then we’re going to tie everything together with a tidy neat bow, and then you’ll go away because class will be over.”)

Letting kids know that confusion was part of it, and was to be expected, and drawing together the algebra and the geometric was part of it, was really helpful. Things went a lot smoother. And kids were making some great connections. I loved that one student saw a geometric argument in advance of me having to pull it out explicitly, and that made me happy. AND IT WAS THE FIRST CLASS OF THE DAY. KIDS DOING STRONG THINKING IN THE MORNING! HUZZAH!

Plus, for some reason, that song “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea was in my head at the start of class, so that’s how we started things off… by listening to that.