# Day 5 - Better than Yesterday

First Class

My morning class had a school function, but first I asked how they liked the activities in class. I gave them three options:

• I really like it
• I really don't like it
• I don't care one way or the other

The vast majority of students said they really liked it, so that made me feel better after all the push-back I was getting from my afternoon class yesterday.

Second Class

Today's engagement was significantly better than yesterday (it couldn't be worse, actually ðŸ™‚ ). For most of the block the entire class was engaged.

I started with the product of dice problem from yesterday, since only one group was successful. Today all groups were eventually successful. Here is some representative student work:

I have no idea why there's a 7 on the die.

I then gave them another product of dice problem:

Player 1 wins if the product is less than or equal to 18.

Player 2 wins if the product is greater than 18.

Decide whether this is a fair game and convince another group that you are correct.

If it is not fair, decide what number instead of 18 will make it fair.

The majority of groups were successful with this problem. As with yesterday, I gave absolutely no instructions about probability, sample spaces, etc.

At this point I said, "it looks like the majority of students are happy with their conclusion. Here's another problem for you." And I put up a relatively easy Sudoku problem. This problem produced total engagement, and spontaneous sharing among groups. Two events stand out for me regarding this problem:

• two groups realized they had made an error and erased their entire board and started over (not something I would expect given the class attitude from yesterday)
• I overheard one student say, "Now this is fun math."

If I'm on the ball with my planning, I'll start curricular content tomorrow; otherwise I'll have one more day of thinking problems.

#### Day 5 - Better than Yesterday — 4 Comments

1. Its interesting that your class yesterday became so disengaged and almost enraged at the fact that you were doing problem solving... I gave my kids the cheetah, goat, rice problem, and I lost them. At one point I told about 3 of them to put their phones away, and the response I got back from one particular girl was "Well if we weren't doing such gay math, I would be engaged... I just wanna learn out of the textbook."

It's interesting how these students grew up in the -3 stream and couldn't be bothered to think outside of their fill-in-the-blank worksheets. It's crazy to think they'd rather be determining interest on buying a car than having some fun working out some problems that aren't for marks - which I think is the only thing these students care about.

On the other hand, my 10-4 class absolutely LOVED it and 4 out of the 5 groups were able to figure this problem out. I really enjoy Peter Liljedahl's teaching methods... that is to say I love problem solve with my students. This is one of the most important concepts the students (especially the non-academic students) need to possess, and at the 30-3 level, they've gotten far enough without having to think. We need to begin teaching like this at the 10-4, 10-3, 10-2 and 10-1 level in order for their brains to continue to be curious. It's sad to think my 30-3's are basically a lost cause in trying to use Peter's methods.

2. Sounds like your class was similar to mine yesterday. In particular:

At one point I told about 3 of them to put their phones away, and the response I got back from one particular girl was "Well if we weren't doing such gay math, I would be engaged... I just wanna learn out of the textbook."

I too had a student say they just wanted to learn from a book.

It's interesting how these students grew up in the -3 stream and couldn't be bothered to think outside of their fill-in-the-blank worksheets. It's crazy to think they'd rather be determining interest on buying a car than having some fun working out some problems that aren't for marks - which I think is the only thing these students care about.

I suspect what's really going on is that, unlike with worksheets, you're asking them to think. Worksheets provide mindless repetition of a problem type that would have been taught in class--no thinking required. The problems we would like them to solve require them to think on their own. I find that the biggest problem is getting them to start. Just write anything, I tell them. Once one group has started, the rest see it and often start without more prompting by me.

It's sad to think my 30-3's are basically a lost cause in trying to use Peter's methods.

It sounds like you've just tried one of these problems with your students. If that's the case, I wouldn't write them off after just one attempt. As Peter said in a number of his presentations, you have to out-wait them. Show that this will be the norm in your classroom.

I emailed him to ask precisely about the disengagement I experienced yesterday, and he responded that he has often seen this at the start of week #2, when students realize that the first week wasn't an anomaly. He suggested starting to introduce some more curricular-related "thinking problems" to show that this is relevant to the course.

By the way, that's great about your 10-4's. Feels good when it clicks, doesn't it?

3. You're right, I think with tomorrow being a half day I'll spend more time with them on another problem. I'm going to try this one with them....

A caterpillar crawls up a pole 75 inches high, starting from the ground. Each day it crawls up 5 inches, and each night it slides down 4 inches. When will it first reach the top of the pole?

• Good luck!