Diary of the process of running a math club for fourth and fifth graders.
This is part my planning process, part documentation and part a how to guide.

The highlight of my recent trip to New York for Thanksgiving was a chance to get into Manhattan and finally checkout MoMath with my sons. I really wish we had something comparable here in Seattle. The exhibits were all very interactive and well suited to grade school kids. Not surprisingly, given its visual nature there was a heavy focus on geometry.

Robot swarm that followed the kids based on the color of the vest they wore. The algorithm was programmable from a station.

Life-size hinged polygon. Now I'm a square, now I'm a triangle.,

Tessellation puzzles.

Harmony of the spheres.

Lifesize rotating maze.In this one you had to cross a red line, blue line and then a white one. (This was one of the few activities I could actually replicate using painter's tape.)

Interactive multiplication parabola sculpture. You chose the 2 numbers to multiply and the connection lit up.

Painting with symmetry.

Position/elocity interactive game. The kids ran back and forth to make it through a series of gates on the screen.

Polyhedrons.

Galileo's curve. This was adjustable and you timed the cart going down the track.

Square bicycle.

Mobius curve race track. There was a steering wheel and camera view for each of the cars.

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.

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

This was a pretty raucous session. I didn't really anticipate how much the kids in the Math club would be invested in the election. I was peppered with requests for updates on the results during which I mostly satisfied via my phone. "Nothing has changed in the last 5 minutes ...." I even had a few try to use the computers in the room to go to election sites (which has never happened before). The moral of this story is mostly if for some reason four years from now you're running a Math Club on a presidential election night, be prepared.

In fact, based on a conversation with my friend Dan I had already scoured the web for election math based activities and had ended up with the following one from NCTM:

My plan was to go through the communal starter, and then run the worksheets in groups and reassemble back together to discuss after 5-10 minutes.

I then committed an error in judgement that hopefully didn't bother anyone. Given the excitement in the room and some requests from the kids rather than doing a synthetic election tally I decided to do a full blown mock election and to tally the results on the board for analysis. Without thinking about it I asked the kids to just add their own selections to the tallies on the board. It wasn't until 5 minutes later I thought about it and realized that I should have maintained secret ballots for this. With any luck, this wasn't significant but I inadvertently violated a core principle with respect to politics. If I'm ever in this situation again I will be more mindful.

This mistake weighed on me the rest of the session along with the need to keep everyone focused on the math rather than the actual election. So overall I'm looking forward to a more normal next week.

The worksheets were pretty good but it took a lot of effort on my part with each table to keep everyone one track. I'm probably also going to go over our standards of behavior again as a group next week.

I tried to pick one that would be finishable without using the entire period but as has often happened in the past most of the groups worked the entire time. On the positive side, these are always a hit. For the one table that finished early I gave out a practice MOEMS test since that's coming up in a few weeks. I handed it out to everyone to look at on their own but I don't expect to get much participation without doing it together.

So I might wedge it in tomorrow. However, I've found an intersesting election based activity from NCTM which I plan to focus on given that its the real election. So we'll see how long everything takes.