Posted in Education, Math, Professional Development, STEM, Teaching

Today is the Best Day of My Life

I often consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world.  I have a loving and beautiful wife, an amazing and wonderful son, a job where I am allowed the opportunity to grow and develop as an educator, a group of insightful and talented students, and a phenomenal co-teacher.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Each new day is a gift just waiting to be unwrapped, which is why each day is the best day of my life.

Yesterday, my school offered a professional development session for its wonderfully gifted educators.  The school had gained access to the rights to show the new documentary Beyond Measure.  It’s all about how the public school system in our country is broken and in need of some major overhauls.  The film focused on a few schools and how they are beginning to make changes that will help their students live meaningful lives in our global society.  It was an insightful and powerful movie that I thoroughly enjoyed because it simply reinforced the purpose and strength of our sixth grade program.  I highly recommend the film.  While the problem with America’s education system is not going to be solved by one or two solutions, it’s a great place to start.  Have a conversation, think about teaching and schools, and get motivated to try new things and take risks.  It’s all about our students.

As if yesterday’s amazing PD opportunity wasn’t enough, then came today.  We welcomed our boys back into the classroom today with open arms.  They seemed excited to be back.  While I’d like to think it was because they missed sixth grade, perhaps it was because we added the Rubik’s Cube app to their iPads over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  They have a great fascination with the cube this year.  It’s quite baffling to me, but whatever floats their boat.

Today in STEM class, we began the period with a quick review game we aptly call The Date Game.  No, the students don’t go speed dating around the classroom.  They need to use all of the individual digits in today’s date to create a balanced equation using at least one multiplication sign, only one equal sign, and one fraction.  They had three minutes to generate their equations on the whiteboard tables.  The boys were hyper focused.  While some students challenged themselves to create convoluted equations, a few boys chose to just create something simple that met the requirements.  We then had a chance for those interested students to share their equations with the class.  Nobody had one that met every requirement, but they came up with some very unique equations that allowed for us to review the order of operations, 0 exponents, and dividing by 0.  The latter created a very interesting conversation about mathematical concepts.

As one of the students explained how to solve an equation involving the division of 0, a few boys shook their heads in disagreement.  So, I had them share their thoughts.  They said, “You can’t divide a number by 0.  It’s undefined.”  So, I then explained using the objects on a student’s desk.  “If I have two things and I am trying to divide them into 0 groups, I can’t do it.  There is no possible answer.”  There were a few ahhs heard around the room at this point.  Then, a student said, “It’s possible.”  So, he came to the board and explained it using long division.  As he was explaining it, he realized that there was no answer and it could go on forever being 0.  While he didn’t want to admit he was wrong, he realized that dividing a number by 0 isn’t possible.  It was quite a fun conversation, which proves that math isn’t just about numbers and solving equations.  It’s about big ideas and concepts.  So cool.

After this epic start to December, it’s hard to imagine anything better.  But, just wait until tomorrow; something new and amazing is bound to happen.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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