My Algebra 2 class meets at 12:35pm every weekday. My students come in, cheery eyed, and eager to hear every last ounce of wisdom I have to impart that day. Their faces are glued to the dramatic lecture presentation that I have prepared, and they practically weep when the bell rings and it’s time to go to a different, lesser, class. Most days I have to pry their rear ends out of their seats and shove them out the door. Or something like that.
In actuality, math is fairly difficult to teach. Some kids (and I was one of them) naturally find the subject really interesting, some can tolerate it, and others have to work frustratingly hard just to achieve average results. But I believe it’s important that my students learn math, so I do what I can to keep them engaged.
During one of my first Algebra 2 classes, pictured above, I gave my students a quiz covering an array of introductory concepts. It only took them about 20 minutes to complete, so once they were done I handed the quizzes to my T.A., Emily. She graded them while I began lecturing the kids on “snow.” I told them of the mysterious substance that falls from the sky, sticks to the ground, and sometimes doesn’t leave for weeks! I went on to explain that sometimes Americans would clump a bunch of snow up into a ball and throw it at one another, for fun. I like introducing randoms topics before explaining how it pertains – it keeps the kids on their toes.
I then asked them to write 3 random facts about themselves on a piece of notebook paper, and crumple it up. “Hold your paper ball high in the air, class…and when I give word, throw it at your fellow classmates as hard as you can!” Paper flew through the air, kids dove to the rescue of their fallen comrades, and vengeance was served coldly to those who had attacked the wrong person at the wrong time. I called for a cease fire before the African snowball fight got out of hand. “I need everyone to pick up just one paper ball. Then we’re going to read what you all wrote and take turns guessing who each piece of paper belongs to.” I think the kids enjoyed it.
So this particular exercise had nothing to do with math – sue me! Once we got through reading the last paper, the class was more comfortable with each other and we had killed enough time that I could hand them back the quizzes that Emily (pictured below playing with village kids) had graded.