Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cookies that Inspire

This post is about my last day of practicum.  It was a pretty big day in my life.  We made smoothies during morning meeting as a little celebration, I brought in my "almost-famous" oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies (aka inception cookies), AND I taught the day's lesson: Using the Pythagorean Theorem.  One student even told me that my cookies, "inspired her to do great things with her life." Oy...8th graders...

The smoothies were a success, but they ran over into class-time and so I didn't have the whole period (as I thought I would) to teach.  However, I was able to adapt fairly well and the lesson was great.  First, I asked them what they knew about the Pythagorean Theorem.  Kids started shouting out responses: a^2 + b^2 = c^2, right triangles, finding side lengths, and so on.  This allowed me to have some idea of the student's prior knowledge and it made me feel comfortable spending less time lecturing and more time with practice problems. I then proceeded to lead the students through a mini-geometric proof of the Pythagorean Theorem:

If you find the area of the big square (a+b)^2 and then set that equal to the area of the 4 triangles (2ab) plus the area of the small square (c^2), you will get the Pythagorean Theorem! This isn't a formal proof, and you can certainly get more into this, but this was a cool way to show the kids how the theorem works and they thought it was interesting.  Next, we did a few practice problems, one that was just a triangle and we found a missing side and one that was a word problem where they had to find the triangle and the missing length.  After this introduction, I lead a small partner-up activity.  This was my favorite part! It was fun and a little silly, it got the kids to partner up with someone random, and then they used their partner for the next activity.  Here's how it works: I made a list of pairs...
Then, I cut the slips up, put them in a bowl, and had students draw a slip.  Then, they had to go find their pair! It was wonderful watching the class clown pull out the "Angelina Jolie" slip, sighing, and saying, "Okay...where's Brad?" I thought this was a great activity, and sometimes, as a teacher,  you have to do something to keep the class fun and amusing.  

Once everyone found their partner, they got to work on a worksheet that had practice problems.  They had to work with triangles, word problems, and then they had to create their own word problem for a partner to solve and then they had to check their work.  Getting students to take their knowledge, understand it, and then use it was my goal here and I thought this worksheet helped to make it a success.

My feelings about today were reaffirmed later in my Methods class where we learned the importance of having students create and how this inspires high-ordered knowledge processes and critical thinking.  Creating helps students develop mathematical literacy and allows them to have a sense of agency about their work.  

My last day was a huge success and it made me feel really great about how far I have come since starting the School of Education Program in September.  This whole year has led me down a fascinating journey and I have truly learned so much from observing teachers, students, and classrooms in action.  Just this morning, I received an e-mail about placement for student teaching in the fall.  I can't wait to start this new leg of my journey and I can't wait to find out where I will be!


  1. Baking and math- a dream blog for me! The oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies sound wonderful and your pictures of food are fantastic. I am a math teacher working on a graduate degree in integrating technology in to the classroom. I do not have experience with blogs but am being tasked to create one so I was perusing the layout and information at your site. Do you think of using a blog as a tool for parents and students? Most of my students had never heard of a blog nor do they seem enthusiastic about doing any sort of writing. They are far more likely to want to do podcasts or video. Good luck with your studies- if you have any experience to share, please do. Regards, PN

    1. I am still in my "student-teaching" phase, so I have not had too much experience incorporating technology into a classroom...yet. However, I love blogs. I think it could be really cool to have students respond to posts in the form of comments, or make their own blogs and comment on each others. I know that you can make them private or only share them amongst a class which could be nice. I did see a Statistics class use an online forum to share articles about statistics and then, for homework, students had to respond. I hadn't thought about using blogs for parents, how do you think that could be used? That is a really fascinating idea!

  2. I am so glad you found the Yummy Math site- they created such excitement among my students about the Pythagorean Theorem with one of their lesson plans! Of course if I presented one of your Monster Cakes I think that would just about send them over the edge. I have been looking around this week to see what blogs are out there- the landscape is pretty fascinating. The only example I see in using blogs for parents is the type that goes over assignments and provides information on lesson plans. What do you think about a blog showcasing the students' work? Since many of our families are in the military this would allow those stationed overseas to still be able to see their son or daughter's work. Are you finding much use of technology in the classes you are working with? Our school itself does not have a lot compared to other schools but the students all have some devices these days can do so much. I appreciate your thoughts and thanks so much for the inspiring pictures- makes me want to get back in the kitchen!

    1. Having a blog that showcases student work for parents seems like a great way to convey positive news to parents. We talk about how usually parents only hear the bad news, but need to hear the good news as well. In terms of technology, the school that I am at does not have that many resources when it comes to technology. However, there is an online system where students and parents can get in contact with teachers and check on student grades. Thank you for all the great ideas and I'm glad you are enjoying my recipes!