SOL: Math on My Mind

Wednesday night bus ride
home after class in the rain
my mind is running
my eyes full of my students
tomorrow’s lesson takes shape

Tonight we were all about line graphs — yes, of course, courtesy of math-guru-Steve.  I started this lesson yesterday in my morning class and learned that a) it takes a lot of time and b) students get so into it that they will keep working well beyond the allotted time without noticing, without complaint.  We extended our math period by almost 45 minutes, with not a single person experiencing math fatigue — an ailment that can often set in after only half an hour!

The activity takes as its jump-off point one of those classic distance-over-time problems.  It’s wonderful because it leaves so much room for questioning, for alternative answers, for possibility.  I love that no one has to be able to speak in math terms to do the problem and love that introducing those terms grows organically out of the work.  I love that students can work and work and work on the problem before beginning to realize that they are doing math.  I love how easy it is to extend the lesson into a writing activity.  So very much to love.

So for tonight I knew I should leave a lot of time and not be surprised to discover that we’d spent 3/4 of the period without getting through the lesson.  I didn’t know if I could count on students getting lost in the activity, however.  My night students check the time about every 17 seconds.  And now that we don’t have a clock in our room and I no longer have a watch, they check and check and check so they can tell me the precise moment when our break begins.

We got off to a slow start (I have a smaller, less immediately enthusiastic group at night), but soon everyone was focused on the graph.  When I put out the markers and said they could use color if that would help them isolate pieces of information, I wasn’t sure anyone would go for it … but one by one everyone began color-coding their work.  When I had them work as a group, they had all written several points and were ready to talk about them.  They were able to explain their ideas to the others in the group … and back those ideas up by pointing to data on the graph and explaining what it meant.  When I brought out the giant sheet of chart paper and told them to tell the story of the graph, they were ready and got right to work.  When Miao had trouble, Wilson stepped right in and figured out the answers with her (not for her).  And, as they finished with the chart paper, I suggested we take a break … and. no. one. moved!  They just kept working, putting some finishing, decorative touches on the page, making sure everyone signed their name to it.  And then they checked their watches … for the first time all night … only to find that, just as in the morning, we were 45 minutes over time.  “How did that happen?” Yenny asked, and we all laughed.

How did that happen?  Yes, Steve is a math genius, but I’ve never seen anything like this.  Never.  Ok, sure, students are probably picking up on my enthusiasm.  But I’m still shocked.

In both classes, even though we still have a few pieces of the lesson left to work through, we hung the chart paper on the walls.  I have to say, they look pretty impressive: lots of data, lots of different ways to discuss the data, lots of color.  I can’t wait to keep going with the lesson!


My tankas continue.  I haven’t posted one every day … but I’m still writing one every day!  I remain undecided about sharing them every day, maybe I’ll just post a bunch a couple times a week?  We’ll see.  In any case, here are Sunday (complete with a little stealing from and a big nod to Dylan Thomas), Monday and Tuesday:

within this island
stories, colors and music
hum of life so strong
mimics the beat of my heart
nothing here lies out of mind

scent of fresh cut grass
first time of this new season
rain, wind in my face
blown through my open window
I take time to enjoy this

Jason stays alert
he smokes and smokes and smokes more
says pot eases him
he keeps watch on everything
floating peacefully through class

11 thoughts on “SOL: Math on My Mind

  1. Oh, wow, that is really exciting about the math lesson. It gives my heart such a thrill when learning goes so well.

    I’m glad you’re still at the tankas, too! That last one amuses me. (I don’t tend to expect to see “pot” in a poem!)


    1. Oh yes, well, Jason is one of my three druggie boys. I find him quite funny and completely adorable … and, surprisingly a lot less high than I expect him to be most of the time!


  2. I love tankas. The form fits me even if I only experimented with one. They are structured, focused, clear and powerful. I will keep playing. I love all of yours. THere’s always one line that stops me in my tracks and forces me to reread and think and smile.
    As for your classroom life, i love the passion in the details. Math, can you believe it?


    1. I’m glad you’ve taken to the form, Bonnie. I really love it. I don’t get it even close to right half the time, but I like all my tankas all the same!

      And yes, isn’t it surprising that I’m finding so much fun in these math lessons? I expect my students to pick up my enthusiasm about writing, but math?


  3. Ashley Dawn

    That math class sounds like a lot of fun.
    Isn’t funny how each group of students can be so different from each other.
    Best of luck with continuing this lesson.


  4. molly

    what a fun post, from the class description to the poetry, to the comments, too. thank you. I am glad you are writing poetry every day, I do understand if you don’t want to share it every day. But if you do, it’s nice for us.


Your turn ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s