## Saturday, January 24, 2015

### Make sense and persevere

I teach 8th grade Pre-Algebra in a Special Education resource room.  This year I have been blessed with an amazing group of students!  They all try so hard every day to grasp the concepts I am teaching them.

This week I was particularly proud of them.  We are coming to the end of our unit on linear equations, and I came up with an activity which would really let them demonstrate their knowledge of linear equations and the flexibility to represent the information in various forms.  I knew it was a very challenging activity, but I had confidence that they would all give it 110% of their effort.

Before we started, I warned them this was going to be really challenging.  They moaned and groaned.  I explained to them that this activity combines everything they've learned so far in this unit and will really show that they understand linear equations.  I first displayed a similar but blank problem up on the SmartBoard.  I pointed out that there were three forms of equations, a table, a graph, and the slope and x- and y-intercepts that needed to be identified.  I told them to all put their detective caps on because they were going to solve a puzzle.  I was going to give them just 1 piece of information, and they have to fill in every other piece of missing information.  You should have seen their faces!  Looks of panic, disbelief, and total lack of confidence.

I get really math-geeky and excited at this point.  I explain to them that this is soooo cool because everything interconnects with everything else.  That there is more than one way to figure out each piece of the puzzle.  That there is more than one path to get from start to finish.  They look at me like I've totally lost it!

But when we were done filling in all the information in, they said "Can we do another one?"  I was so excited that they wanted to do more!  I thought since they seemed so confused and frustrated by the whole process, that they would never in a million years want more!  But they were so persistent and determined to figure out how to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  We did a few more "puzzles" where I gave them different pieces of information such as just the completed table of values, or just the graph.  When the class was almost over, they asked if we could do this again tomorrow!

My hope is that learning to be flexible and complete all the missing pieces of the puzzle from any starting point will help them truly understand linear equations.  They really demonstrated Mathematical Practice Standard #1 - Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. I've never seen them work so hard and I was very proud!