I don’t know what I would do without you guys. As I explained a couple posts ago my goal is engagement, engagement, engagement. I am teaching a lot of dangerously boring procedures in these test prep classes with students with short attention spans and not a lot of respect for authority and mathematics. Basically a recipe for a student teacher meltdown.
I searched and searched and searched and finally SUCCESS. I stumbled upon this set of postings (with worksheets) by Mr. K and then I hit the jackpot by finding an amazing introduction by @ddmeyer here. He introduces the idea of scientific notation by asking students to write down names of states which ultimately leads to a discussion of common abbreviations of states. He also gives students a bunch of insanely long numbers and has them kind of invent scientific notation on their own. That’s amazing but I only had 38 minutes of awesome to provide to kids who barely want to listen to me (and no tech to display said long numbers) so I had to modify slightly. Luckily this woman Amanda commented on dy/dan’s post and offered the suggestion of using text messages abbreviations and VOILA I knew I had a winner.
Students got really excited, “I can write whatever I want?” Yes, absolutely, as long as it’s appropriate knock your socks off. So as I went around and checked homework students wrote their new text message, abbreviating whatever words they wanted. I gave the following lead off example, “I know you all probably say ‘hey’ instead of hello.” Then I asked them to raise their hand and tell me a word they changed. This was the result on the board (summary from all 3 periods):
Then I asked them if everyone would know what “wsp” would mean (or whatever the odd man out was up there), most said maybe (it means what’s up) which transitioned beautifully into a conversation about abbreviations, usefulness, standardizing for understanding, etc. One student even said she added extra vowels for emphasis, her example, “I don’t knoooooooow.” This was awesome because that led right into abbreviating large words/text messages or making small words larger. Then I talked about how in mathematics we do the same thing – take the distance to the sun .. and so on.
It went great! The kids were talking and completely engaged. I kept emphasizing raising their hand in order to contribute to the board so it was reasonably controlled chaos. They even paid attention to the somewhat lame procedural lecture that followed when we discussed the previous nights pattern homework worksheet from the Math Stories blog. (*They could use a calculator until they found the pattern. It was assigned as a pattern hunting worksheet rather than a scientific notation one).
Love when plans go well, I know it’s rare so I’ll savor this moment.