Blocks

So tired. So tired. So I’m going to make what should be a crazy long post about an awesome multivariable calculus class into something short.

Today I taught my first “block” class ever. (We now have occasional 90 minute blocks.) I came up with a genius idea in multivariable calculus. What’s a big idea in the course that I want to get across? That what we’re doing is taking things we know and going up a dimension and seeing how things change and how things stay the same.

I wanted to do it in a non-calculus context and have them work with things that are familiar. So I had kids think about how they would extend Pascal’s Triangle into Pascal’s Pyramid. Two different groups had two different ideas. I then presented a third, which we analyzed. To do this — and make it make sense — I bought wooden blocks and whiteboardstickonsheets which I cut and added to the wooden blocks. They then made pyramids using these blocks, and put numbers on them with whiteboard markers. I’m mad at myself for not taking photos. This is a photo a student took.

photo

Some kids had to leave early for sports. But the kids who didn’t were practically hyperventillating with the coolness of what they discovered when looking for patterns and deep connections.

***

I wrote 13 college recommendations over the summer. I emailed the college counselors the recommendations in case they wanted to look ’em over. I got them back today with lots of great comments. I was so impressed with the fact that they went above and beyond to do this for me that I emailed them… and copied The Bigwig Administrators (the head of school and the head of the upper school) letting them know how awesome they are for this hidden work they do for teachers and students that no one really gets to see.

One of the counselors replied: “This pretty much made me cry.”

So that felt good.

***

In my precalculus class, I started the year with a random math question centered around handing out textbooks. It is a tough question. It wasn’t homework or anything. Just a challenge I posed… “for fun.” Two students came to class today with a page of work they did, each tackling the problem. On top of that, one said he had also written some code, but it was giving him an answer that was slightly off to what I said in class, And then he recognized his error in the code. But wow. What kind of kids are these?! Awesome kids!

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