What a difference a week makes. I left yesterday feeling very upbeat. To start off, I drove to the school early to help escort nine of the kids over to our sister middle school where they participated in the AMC 8 math contest. I'm super excited about making this happen after mulling it over for 3 years. This year we finally had a large enough group of fifth graders to reach critical mass. Despite some trepidation, it was not hard assembling everyone in the office and walking over. I had one parent volunteer who stayed during the contest so I could go back and lead Math club for everyone else. I didn't anticipate how the fifth graders would react to the field trip. It turns out it was very exciting seeing the middle school that many will go to next year and had never been inside. It's harder to arrange but cross-grade experiences like this seem effective. If I switch over to running a club at the middle school I'm going to remember this and try to reach out.
A lot of the conversation was also over the format of the test, whether there would be prizes (no), what does it mean etc. My main message was to stress that this is a baseline and they will have a chance to try it out over several years and see how they grow over time. I don't expect super high scores since everyone's young but I'm hoping that the kids come out excited to try again next year.
Also one boy remarked that the math we do in the club is more difficult than what happens in class. "Its more like 8th grade math." I smiled at the time especially at what the kids think the the standard is for difficulty. I'm hoping that was meant in a good way and its something I think I'll follow up on when I survey everyone. Ultimately, what I'm aiming at is for them to say instead "I really had to think - that was different and interesting."
During the regular session with the remainder of the kids, I only had eight students left. This was actually also fun. Working in larger groups, you forget how much more time you can spend individually and how much easier it is to manage flow at the smaller sizes. I started by stressing that last week was unusual but I expected a return to our normal behavioral norms. We then looked at the P.O.T.W. I went with one from MathCounts: https://www.mathcounts.org/sites/default/files/images/potw/pdf/PoTW%20110716%20Solutions%2BProblems.pdf This was Veteran's day themed and I was stretched for time so I didn't look for more alternatives. It turns out I wasn't so happy with the choice on consideration. The problem basically was a simple version of calculating percentages and didn't have much meat to it. So it went fairly quickly and this week I spent more time coming up with a better choice.
For our main focus I turned to a really cool topology experiment I found from Mike Lawler/James Tanton. https://mikesmathpage.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/an-absolutely-mind-blowing-project-from-james-tanton-2/
I didn't have time to take pictures of our own work so here's the video of Mike's kids exploring:
To manage the scrap paper issues I had everyone gather together on the carpet area. This kept the mess to a small portion of the room. I was surprised that several kids had never heard of a Mobius strip. So I started by cutting strips out and letting the kids tape together a simple mobius strip. They then confirmed via tracing with a pencil there was only one side. From here we went through each of the more complex cutting projects. Before each one we made guess as a group about the outcome and afterwards I also had everyone characterize the results, paying special attention to trace how many sides the new shapes had. Overall, I agree with Mike, this was a really engaging investigation that's worth repeating.
Finally for the back half I printed out a sample MOEMS contest to practice on. We're off for Thanksgiving but next session I plan to administer the first real round of MOEMS. This is going to involve a bit of creative rearranging to make all the rounds fit.
P.O.T.W: I chose this one from nrich which looks to generate much more interesting white board conversations: https://nrich.maths.org/11257