math

“Hey! You taught us that!”

I wrote most of this post about 2 months ago.  It’s been on my mind ever since, even though I decided not to publish it originally.  I’m still thinking about it, so I decided to do some revision and post it today.I taught a lesson this morning on perimeter and area.  We’d talked about area before but perimeter was new.  Provincial testing is starting next week and there is often a perimeter and/or area question – usually a big one – so I always like to spend some time on it really close to the dates of the test.  (Writing that makes me feel like a bit of a jerk for not teaching this because it is interesting and important.  I do think they are (interesting and important) but the timing is due to the test.  I still feel like a jerk but it’s reality, eh?)After doing a whole group activity with colour tiles, and discovering that everyone remembers that 5 of them makes a pentomino AND after discovering that I may have been mispronouncing that word (saying it the American way) for the past 15 years, I sent them off to do some work on their own.  Nothing spectacular. As I helped one student, I asked her, “OK, you’ve made the shape.  We’ve coloured it on the grid paper.  Now, what is the area?”  She quickly figured it out.  And then she said, “Hey, you taught us this!”  Why yes, yes I did.  Approximately 5 minutes ago in fact.  “No, I’m sure it was a while ago,” she replied. She was still on the verge of realizing the lesson and activity were connected. “No, it was today’s lesson. See?  It’s still up on the board. “She looked at me suspiciously, clearly not believing me. She shrugged. “Alright.”I pointed to the next one.  “Can you figure this out for me?”  She did.”Hey,” she said in amazement. “This is getting easier!”I’ve been debating for a few minutes, and I’m going to count this one as a win.  I was this kind of student, except I always knew that the day’s lesson would be connected to the day’s activity. It took me until I was in the last year of high school to realize that the month’s lessons were going to be on the test, and that I could go back through a chapter in the textbook and do a problem or two from each page to help me study for a math test.   I was just trying to get through each class period, never looking forward or back.  I hope that this year I helped this student see that it’s all connected, and that she remembers it in future years!My grade 3 students went to another location to write their EQAO test.  After the first math test in particular, they returned and said something like, “There was a bunch of stuff on the test that you taught us!”   Again…amazing!  I was glad math was coming early on in the schedule so I could reiterate: “That is going to happen over and over on this test.  The whole point is to test you on the things we were supposed to learn.”Sometimes I wonder what children think is the purpose of school.  I know they think about the social aspects, even in the early grades.  I can’t remember that far back so I don’t know what I thought the purpose was.  I do know I was supposed to learn how to read and write and do math.  I know that by the time I was in high school I thought the whole point of high school was to help me get into a good college, and since that wasn’t really something I thought I would do (until I got to the 11th grade and realized I had to go to some sort of post secondary school if I wanted to teach!) I didn’t worry about putting forth too much effort.  I was there for the assemblies and the socializing.I have, for a few years, been working hard to help students see the connections between everything we do. I try to be very explicit with them – telling them exactly how things are connected, and asking them how they think things are connected.  Maybe I need to spend  more time talking about the purpose of school.