The Ballerina Mathematician

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 29 2011

An Irrelevant Function

My students took their final district benchmark test today.  I graded the constructed responses as they worked.

I had two favorite two responses to “What type of function is this?”, to which the answer should have been quadratic.  The first was “expanction” and the second was “irrelevant” (backed up by “because there is no pattern”).

I have the chance to recommend my 8th graders to the accelerated math track in high school.  They need high grades in my class and on benchmarks, and also need to prove themselves as motivated.  To make sure I recommended the right ones, I had interested students write me a note.  They had to explain why they wanted to skip to geometry, and give two things they would do to succeed, better than “study” and “pay attention.”

The first memorable note came from one of my extremely quiet but hardworking girls.  Her letter talked of how this would open up opportunities for the rest of her life.  It ended with this sentence: “I am the first of my sisters to actually be good at math and its all thanks to you.”  How lovely to hear!

The second note was more funny than sweet.  It was written by C, who is quite possibly my most intelligent student.  He’s G/T and constantly strives to do all his math work in his head.  He’s short, baby-faced, and adorable to top it off, and I don’t know why more girls aren’t in love with him.  This is an excerpt from his note to me, spelling mistakes included: “If the class would be excelarated it would be twice as fun and interesting.  Just imagine getting credits for doing hard math, it would be awesome.  Besides it would probably still be easy for me because I’m so good at math.”  This made me laugh out loud!  This half-page letter was also the most writing I’ve gotten out of him all year in my class.  He decorated it with “Math is so awesome!” and “Math is super cool!” at the bottom.

We have so few days left until the summative assessment, and then until the end of the year and all the 8th grade activities.  The spring has FLOWN by and yet I still struggle to stay optimistic each day.  I have a number of students who have really stepped it up these last few weeks with their work ethic, and it’s amazing how motivated so many of them have become.

At the same time I have a handful of students who have given up completely.  Zeros on quiz after quiz, and behavior problems day after day.  I am working hard to be patient with them.  I sit next to them each day and walk them through the steps.  I care deeply about each of them and work to figure out how to motivate them.  For most of them, I get nothing back.  It is the most frustrating thing!  If I care so much, why can’t they care even a tiny bit?  I’m still working on that, 6 classes until the assessment or not.

To end on a positive note, one of my students told me my name sounded like a DJ’s name (in the middle of instruction) and began to rap out a DJ introduction for the class.  It was quite amusing!

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    a dancer's adventure in teaching math


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