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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Monsters I Have Created

Our Geometry course includes lots of discovery. LOTS. As a result I have 55 kids who like to have a ruler and a compass at hand when they're asked to investigate anything. Which is totally fine and awesome. When they want to check if things are equidistant or sketch a circle and they're like "can you get out the compasses" my heart sings. I can't even tell you.

So today in an uncharacteristic head-fake toward efficiency over laborious, painstaking discovery, I threw them this:

If you didn't notice, take a look at those measurements and that diagram and you will see the problem. I did not think much about it, because diagrams are not to scale and perfect reasoning on imperfect pictures and blah blah blah. A few years ago my students wouldn't have batted an eye at this, they would have just plugged and chugged, but these guys were NOT. HAVING. IT.

"What is going on with your diagram?"
"That is pitiful, Nowak."
"This is not physically possible."

This made me ridiculously happy. Just that they view the quantities we work with as physical things they can measure and verify and use their spatial intuition on. And they don't see them as arbitrary rules devoid of meaning that they have to memorize because the grumpy lady makes them. Maybe this is obvious and it just means that I'm now a mediocre Geometry teacher instead of the worst Geometry teacher ever. But, you know, baby steps. I may or may not have also shown them Rico Suave on youtube. It is the end of May. We are punchy.


  1. My heart doesn't usually sing (ok, well maybe an abnormally large amount of "How Deep is Your Love" today...) but man oh man, I am smiling ear-to-ear reading this; it is terrific!

    I need to get my kids to that place because at present their passivity is driving me to drink in large quantities.


  2. I think Kate's students might be driving her to drink in another way....BRAVO, Kate! Still working on my kids...

  3. I'm going to be teaching geometry next year for the first time in a while....and I aspire to have my students as engaged as yours seem to be! So glad I found your blog!

  4. Teaching punchy is a weird skill. It's easy to just pull up My Prerogative, or that weird He-Man / 4 Non-Blondes mashup. It's only in year 3 or 4 that you develop the chops to keep the year moving after that moment.

    I fully abuse the math-power to label stuff congruent, despite what reasonable observation would tell you about my drawing. But it is nice when they're paying attention, especially after the Riconox. Hmm. The Suavstice?

  5. Forgive me for going off topic, but the skills/nightmare quote at the top of you blog page sounds so familiar. Was it from the movie "Taken" starring Liam Neeson?

  6. Yes it is. I thought it was kind of hilarious at the time, but I should probably take it down for not being warm-fuzzy-teachery.

  7. No no you shouldn't. It fits just nicely. I am contemplating putting up something similar on my site as well.

  8. I love that you shared this. Critical thinking will save our humanity.


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