Tuesday, October 4, 2016

10/3: Year 3 (Bigger and Better)

I always get an odd mixture of impatience and trepidation right before after school activities start up. This time most of my concern is around getting two rooms running smoothly.  I really want a strong start to the year to ultimately prepare for passing the Math Club onto the next generation of parents.

Final Demographics:  26 kids
14 5th grade 1 girl
12 4th grade 9 girls

As you can see above its a weird lopsided year. So I have 10  girls but almost all are in 4th grade. In theory I'd like a few more 4th grade boys and lot more 5th grade girls.  This wouldn't actually be an issue except I'm splitting the club with another parent by grade. I have one lead for a future participant and I'll have to think what more I can do to recruit next quarter. One idea is to ask the 5th grade girl's parents if she has any friends who might want to join her.  I'm also tempted to randomly mix the kids up to achieve a better gender balance but that cuts against reusing material with the 4th graders and the opportunities to more closely fit the skill levels that we get from a grade split.

Update: I've found one more female fifth grader. So its not quite so bad. 

One other short term goal: Most of the fifth grade boys are coming back from last year and very comfortable (probably a bit too much) with each other. I really want to shake things up. So I'm thinking about either focusing on individual activities for a little while or forming temporary assigned groups to force kids to partner with new people. I'm actually pretty excited about this in the long run. You can often see really interesting development over the span of two years.

The afternoon started with me unable to get into either assigned room. The after school coordinator assured me that both rooms would be unlocked while the kids came down. Ultimately that did happen but I wasn't sure what state either room was in (I ended up with another room that didn't have much in the way of desks). For the first session I talked with my new co-coach and we agreed to do a joint starting session that I would captain. She brought name tags which were  useful except when kids lost them or hid the names under their pony tails. On the bright side, knowing half the kids before hand meant a lot less names to memorize. Also this was a new record for me handling a real full classroom of students.

I began with my normal introductory activities. I always have each kid introduce themselves, say their grade and teacher and why they joined. I had a sprinkling (thankfully not too many) of "my parents made me" and a few "my older brother was in math club" but for the most part the kids were there out of desire.

We then followed my normal outline about behavioral norms and goals. See: Club Charter Discussion Points  I like to emphasize the big ideas of "What do you when you're stuck?", "Mistakes are part of the process", and "We're working on listening to each other" and ask for lots of examples from the kids.  I actually thought a bit about whether to change this time after I saw a bunch of posts online about skipping discussing rules until the second day of class and jumping straight into math. I'm just not brave enough yet to try that out. My fear is that if we don't establish some of the basic norms right off the bad precedents will be set. That being said I think all my returning students work really well and the new ones seemed very amiable so I'm not sure if I'm being overly cautious.


I went with  Sara VanDerWerf's 100 game.  https://saravanderwerf.com/2015/12/07/100-numbers-to-get-students-talking/   This was a hit and interesting to watch. We did 2 rounds with a 3 minute reflection on strategies in between and then a 6 minutes wrap up reflection.  Overall, I would definitely repeat this. The kids were captivated and they did not finish the whole sheet like I feared. You could easily bump the time per round from 2 to 3 minutes and run an entire 3rd round but I had only printed enough sheets to go twice.  On the final reflection it didn't look like the groups were going to notice the pattern so I asked everyone to very slowly replay a few steps and look for patterns again. That did the trick and almost every group found the number spiral based on that strategy.  One other fine tuning I might try if repeating.  I only had yellow highlighters due to supply constraints. If I could have handed out multi color high lighters in the second round, that probably would have more naturally led to the key insight.

We then started a dot pattern exercise. ala: http://fawnnguyen.com/first-day-lessons/  I wrote four questions on the board:

  • What is the next step for each of the patterns?
  • What is the 7th step for each of the patterns?
  • What would the step prior to beginning of the patterns look like?
  • Can you find an equation to model how many squares or sticks  are in each step?
We only had about 10-15 minutes to work on these. I went around the room and most of the kids were just getting the basic idea coming up with the next step for one or two of the patterns. So I definitely want to come back to them to at least have a group discussion and some white-boarding. One possibility is to warmup this way for a few sessions.

https://www.mathcounts.org/resources/problem-of-the-week/fence-me. Amusingly the first thing most of the returning fifth graders asked about were homework points and treats. That apparently had a very strong effect on everyone. So I'm hoping for strong participation again this year,

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