This year I am teaching Algebra I to students who have already failed (some more than 3 or 4 times). I teach it differently to these students because they have already seen it before.
They think there is nothing new in math. They are wrong. Here are some ways I get these bored students interested in math again.
1) Tell a good story. I can get really worked up about girls having the right to study math and be really good at it.
Did you know that Pythagoreas (father of the Pythagorean Theorem) had a secret society and allowed both men and women? Since his teachings influenced great philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, who are we to argue with the equality of women and girls to enjoy math? Let’s also speak of Hypatia, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher.
Want current women, then let’s add these to the mix. Mary Cartwright, only one of 5 women studying math at Oxford in 1919 and almost gave up but perservered. Dorothy Johnson Vaughan whose work in aeronautics helped make space travel possible. Our girls need role models. Role models that are educated women that made significant contributions to the world.
2) Start the class with a short video. Kids are already asking me to watch movies. I always laugh like a mad woman and say no, but one day I surprised them. We were just starting a unit on statistics and probability. And when I showed this clip, they were surprised. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWPhV6PUr9o
We decided to do our own analysis of baseball players. It wasn’t like math class, but it was a lot of math.
3) Have them get up and move. It is so boring to sit all day in a student desk. My students do not have P.E. in Junior and Senior years, so they get tired of sitting. Post some answers (more wrong answers than right) around the room and then give them lots of problems. Have them work in teams to get the problems solved and matched up. Or play a gave of team competition. Students work in teams to complete a worksheet of complicated problems, add all the solutions together and then race to ring the bell and win the prize. What’s the prize? Whatever I have on hand at the moment. Sometimes it is the priviledge of choosing their seat next time I change the seating chart.
4) Use technology. There are a lot of great programs that kids love. I use a lot of Quizlet, Boom Cards and Quizizz in the classroom. I monitor chrome book use so they are not just surfing the net. Desmos is a wonderful program for graphing that allows students to see math. Have them change slope in a linear equation and see what happens. Kids all love Kahoot, but I am not impressed for a lot of reasons. But Kahoot makes an excellent incentive for getting other work done.
5) Go outside if you can. One year I asked my colleagues to post math questions on their window. I gave student a blank worksheet, we went outside and quietly visited doors and did math on the go. Another year, we explored the real life problem of wheelchair ramps, measuring the rise of several ramps and discovered that some of our school ramps are not compliant. Last year we practiced our trig ratios by finding the height of our flagpole. All outside on a lovely day.
6) Play music. I play music as they work on their warm up, when the music ends, their time is done. It’s always my music, not theirs. And if they complain about the song, I sing along. Music signals the end of the period and transitions to and from the chromebooks. It is also soothing during test times. My students always know its Monday–my favorite songs for Monday are Rainy Days and Mondays by Carpenters and Manic Monday by Bangles.
7) Start the lesson with a question. A student told me that because he had a birthday that day he was special. I said you share your birthday with a lot of other people. He asked how many, the class all took a guess and I googled the answer. Another day we wondered what the average shoe size was for a teenager. Everyone in the room gave their shoe size and we graphed that result and made a line of best fit. If you are stumped, ask your students to write questions for their warm ups. The answers have to be numbers. Don’t be surprised if one of the questions is: How many Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino can you buy with $1 million.