Whew, its been a struggle for me recently. The dissonance between what I want my classes to be and what they are has been bringing me down. There so much room for disappointment in this job. But then a conversation with a parent about how she seen growth in her student while in my class buoys me up.
One of my officemates (I can’t recommend having a shared office enough) passed along this video of Dan Meyer giving a TED talk. She asked me if I ever read his blog. In fact, his was the first math edu-blog I ever read, and the one which got me hooked into this community. I’ve tried a hundred times to remember how I stumbled upon it for the first time, but it is lost to me in the mists of the past. Anyway, watching this video helped me see that, while I haven’t gotten where I wanted, I’ve come a long way.
How do I know? I used this analysis of the ‘sassy’ skinny diet Pepsi can with my 7th graders today. It was great. We ended up talking about which cans were cheaper to make. The best part is I never told my 7th graders the formal formula for surface area and volume of a cylinder – all this consideration of cylinders has drawn it out of them.
Here’s what really reaffirmed me, though. When I was telling my housemates about my classes today, one of them started pulling out all of the cans from the fridge and cupboard. She started trying to figure out if there is a ‘golden ratio’ of cylindrical food containers. We were debating all the possible constraints/considerations. All of this from a gal who didn’t really care for ‘math’ back in the day. But this is math – a little worm in your mind that gets in and won’t leave until its looked at from every angle.
And now I’m trying to figure out how I can work these cans into my class…so many ideas….
I’m not winning every day. In fact most days still feel like losses. I have an entire class I haven’t even tried to bake any of these principles into. But you know what – I’m getting better. When I look at my own personal history, I’ve never had quick achievement. When I started running in middle school I was way below average for my age. But I just kept plugging away, and 6 years later, my senior year of high school, I began posting decent times. Why would I expect my teaching career to be any different?