Fearing the Unknown

“we have nothing to fear, but fear itself…” apologies to Mr. Churchill. I try my very best to make failure survivable in my classroom. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s not OK to not try.

Math with Bad Drawings

Or, How to Avoid Thinking in Math Class, Part 5
(See Also Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4)

Sometimes I fantasize about making scarecrows of myself.


They’d wear jackets, ties, and expressions of thoughtful patience. I’d scatter them around my classroom—maybe even one every desk (if scarecrow manufacturers happen to give bulk discounts). And they’d work wonders for my students, because a lot of the time, the students don’t actually need me.

They just think they do.

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“But when will I ever need to use this, Mr. B?”

“The New York Times Doesn’t Know Any Math Teachers”

this is why I follow Dan Meyer.  I would pose this to my students as: “can you help the innumerate New York Times?”

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The Art of Cell Structure and Function

Exhibition #1 2014-2015

6th Grade Project work at  MCCPS Exhibition #1 2014-2015.  This installation was informed by our visit to the Calder Exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum and consists of abstract images of cell organelles. The writing below each image describes the structure of the organelle and how its function contributes to the cellular system.  Visitors to Exhibition remarked on the kinetic nature of the installation and its accessibility to them as viewers.  They were also impressed by the integration of Art and Science and the students’ discussions of how artists use Science to understand, interpret and create their art. The hanging rectangular prisms are recycled pizza boxes from a recent School Pizza Lunch.

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6B Khan-in-the-Octagon Champions!

head-to-head contest with 6M on Khan points in 45 minutes

head-to-head contest with 6M on Khan points in 45 minutes

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Vocabulary Test

  1. Write a word problem that uses a Divisor, a Dividend, and a Quotient. Identify each of them, describe each of them and describe the relationship that each has with the other two.
  2. Would you rather be a Predator or a Parasite? If you could be either one, which would you be and why? Carefully describe the differences between the two in the explanation of your choice. What kind of relationship do they have with other organisms?

This is a vocabulary test that I gave last Thursday. Rather than asking students to match vocabulary with definitions or to just regurgitate definitions in response to a word prompt, I wanted to see if they could describe the roles and relationships behind these words. Just what is a Dividend? or a Divisor? and how do they relate to each other? “Partners” to predators or parasites do not benefit from the transaction, quite the reverse. But how do you compare those relationships?

Anybody can memorize definitions. Weaving a story with words demonstrates true depth and breadth of understanding, and is a more durable learning.  The results of this assessment were eye-opening in that some of my best students stumbled. More than a few didn’t write a word problem at all; others just recited the definitions.  It’s one thing to be good at computation, it’s entirely another to be fluent in your understanding.

Me? I’d rather be a parasite, esp. Microplitis demolitor

a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in caterpillars and uses a 100-million-year old mutualistic relationship with a virus as a weapon.

a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in caterpillars and uses a 100-million-year old mutualistic relationship with a virus as a weapon.

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Fraction Division

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