Explore Mathematics 2019

An assistant principal came in today with the dreaded white sheet saying that I needed to sub during my plan. I legitimately thought I was going to lose it right then and there. I had given all my after-school time plus some to various district needs every day this week, at the expense of my family and my students. Today I had another meeting scheduled after school, off site, which meant again less time with my family and more grading piling up.

I know when I’ve pushed too hard. I can often feel my body saying, “One more thing and that’s it. I will cave in on you.”

I usually don’t listen to that voice.

But today I did.

I did something I’ve never done in my seven years at this building and begged to be spared today. I knew it meant another colleague would have to pay the price. I knew it meant looking weak. I knew it meant I would probably pay double for it next week. But I did it anyway.

And I was graciously granted my planning period back.

In the perfect world, we would never have to give up our precious hour of plan time. But it’s not a perfect world. So, I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve worked at a place long enough to feel I can ask for favors…and that I’m granted them most times I ask.

Most of all, I’m grateful that I listened.

*****

This is my first year back in PreCalc after a couple years’ break. Somehow I won the lottery and got the two sections of sophomores. They. Are. My. People. I mean, they’re sophomores so some of them are squirrelly, yes, but they love math and love to question and wonder and argue and hypothesize and they make me feel so normal!

We are doing a version of Sam Shah’s Explore Mathematics again this year. I love this project. It’s designed to be low entry but high ceiling and rewards kids for doing math they’re interested in.

One thing I added a few years back was analyzing a musical piece. When I taught juniors and seniors, few took me up on this. It was vague in nature; I understood that. But that was also kind of the point.

But the sophomores?

Vague does not scare them. They are unafraid of undefined boundaries. In fact, that’s where they flourish most.

Several chose this avenue. As I graded them today, I was floored by their creativity and thoroughness. I have a minor in music so I could keep up with all the technical lingo. Some had done so much work I told them they have to let me count it for more than one exploration because I felt guilty giving them only a quarter of quiz grade for all this work.

I asked two of them to present their work and their faces lit up. They were thrilled at the prospect of sharing their findings with their peers.

Did I mention I won the lottery here?

I love these kids. I love that when I give them an idea they run with it. I love how they think outside the box. I love that they understand that mathematics and creativity are spouses who bring out the best in each other.

I love being their teacher.

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