Intro to Math: Circles and Squares

School is back in session! One of the students I tutor apparently has no homework tonight, otherwise I don’t know when I would have had time to put this into writing – things got busy in a hurry.

I’m doing the whole #teach180 thing so if you’re desperate to see more frequent updates from the classroom you can follow me on Instagram, @multiplefactorsi. I’ll be posting every day, held accountable by a reminder on my phone. I hate tiny little red numbers on that screen, so you know I’ll be following the rules.

Anyway! The first week of math class I always do “intro to math.” We started with some talk about what topics in math we were going to do over the year, and then we spent some time on an arts integration project inspired by these tasks for small children. This would have been awesome if we had more time, or maybe they would have gotten old – who can say? A couple students finished them beautifully at home, and others have kept their unfinished projects in case of momentary boredom. I’ll attach that whole assignment.



PDF of the assignment: day-1-arts

The second day was all about seeing things from multiple perspectives and integrating multiple viewpoints into collaborative work. We started with a number talk, something I loved when I first saw it but just never used. I took the one from YouCubed’s “Week of Inspirational Math,” week 2 day 1. I had been very nervous that our conversation would be nothing like the thought-provoking and joyful example video, but this went amazingly. Here’s our board:


Inspired by Sarah at Math = Love, who was in turn inspired by other bloggers, we then launched Broken Circles. That was great! I love hearing students talk about math, but I also loved the no talking rule. It’s also an inspired touch that one circle completes itself. In one group, the person with the “A” pieces sat there, self-satisfied while the rest of the group struggled, and it was kind of glorious. It’s almost like the point of this task was to show that working together and paying attention is crucial.

Between that and our next collaborative task, we went over our group norms. I translated them into Spanish for an extra touch, and perhaps that will inspire me to do more group work in Spanish class? Time will tell.


The end of Wednesday we started the Pentomino task – I blogged about Pentominoes last time I did it, SO long ago! This year I didn’t leave as much time and consequently they didn’t come up with quite as many combinations, but I do still think it was a useful exercise in visualization and pattern recognition. I’m kind of in love with my independent reflection for that task, attached. Why indeed can you not build a 6×6 square?

Independent Reflection PDF: pentomino-ir

Things are shaping up, but I already know I won’t have nearly enough time to blog as I’d like : 0


Lately and All Year

In my capacity as HGS math teacher plus, lately I have…

Been to the Country Music Hall of Fame:

cm hall of fame

Seen some art galleries in Asheville:


Hung out in a cave:

(photo cred to Hope/ the fellow cavegoer who physically took that photo)

Constructed a sustainable cardboard community with some students & my city planner friend Megan:

cardboard city

Assisted with prom:


And so so so much other stuff – taking and appearing in photos isn’t usually my priority. So now it’s the end of the school year.

The good/ bad thing about my school is that reflection, self- and otherwise is not just a suggested task or a box we have to fill out occasionally. Our structures require it. We meet as a whole staff every Friday and are constantly evaluating and reevaluating what we do and why. It can be exhausting and emotionally draining to always justify or reconsider practices, but it’s impossible to innovate without doing it.

The end of the year is a particularly good time to reflect. As a whole staff we’ve been devising exciting potential changes to our outdoor education and field studies programs. Of course I’m still focusing on my precious math curriculum and my own classroom. I have some mechanisms I can’t wait to put in place to make sure that I stay more organized. I’m also working on striking the right balance between group and individual work, on creating a culture of independent thinkers who are less dependent on me or on an algorithm, and on aligning more with the common core mathematical practices than the individual standards (I luckily have the freedom to do that).

Tragicomically I have yet to finish my grades, but that is tomorrow’s task, and a reflective one at that. I’ll be back with thoughts over the summer.