I’m Selfish

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There they were, the proof in the pudding in the form of pancakes.  I had to admit, they didn’t taste half bad.  The Cocoa Puffs within them were a bit mushy, but the Fruity Pebbles added an interesting flavor.  The most important piece of this, is I realized how selfish I had been.

I sat on the couch at my friend Nickeva’s house discussing things as friends often do.  Her girls, free to be who they fully want to be, casually asked if they could make pancakes.  “Sure”, without skipping a bit their mother responded.

Thought 1: How many times had my girls asked to be crafty in the kitchen and I shut them down without giving it a second thought?

They moved about the kitchen with ease, this wasn’t their first time making major moves in there.  A 3rd grader and a kindergartner, real chefs in the kitchen as their mother continued to sit on the couch with me.  Thankfully, they invited my girls to join in on making the masterpiece.  There were laughs mixed in with directions.  I saw them pull out the bag of Fruity Pebbles.  What would they do with that?  Aren’t they making pancakes?

Thought 2: Look how free they are to create without my input.  How naturally creativity comes to kids when we allow them to explore and investigate.

While the pancakes cooked, I saw them pull out a plate, fill it with water and dish soap.  Then came the straw.

Thought 3: That’s wasting dish soap!!  My girls know better than to do that!  Ugh! Why am I like that?

That visit blessed me more than I realized in that moment.  My girls walked away inspired, with a feeling of accomplishment.  The next morning, they were all about making breakfast!  (Although I had to draw the line at cooking the bacon.)  I reflected and realized how my unbalanced focus on money stifled my children’s creativity.  How my need for control and order limited the opportunities they had to explore passions and investigate things that intrigue them.

This got me thinking about the students who enter our classrooms everyday.  How many of them have been stifled at home and are desperate for a moment of creativity?  How many of them crave to have a chance to investigate and explore? How are we contributing to the opportunity gap, by not allowing our children, our students to tap into their natural curiosity and innate abilities?

I’m certain if I were to inquire, Nickeva would tell me about the times she guided her daughters around the kitchen or how she sign them up for cooking classes.  She would mention the various opportunities her girls have had prior to the pancakes on that Saturday.  What does that mean for me?  What does that mean for you?  Time and repetition of opportunities.  Guidance without majority of the control.  Being the guide on the side.  And I think the most important part is understanding this life is bigger than you and me.  What are we doing with the time we have with our own kids, with our own students.  What do we communicate to them when we limit their opportunities?

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We Should Do This More Often

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Our last unit ended with a bang!  Unit 5 Pythagorean Theorem and Volume was opened with act 1 of Dan Meyer’s Taco Cart.  As with most 3 act tasks, this one began with the notice and wonder component. Students’ ideas exceeded what I expected. 




The blue notes the notices, the orange notes the wonders and the black were thoughts added during our discussion about estimations. 

We decided to answer “Who got to the Taco Cart faster?” but said we would come back to answer: are they going at the same speed, was one person running and will they get there at the same time?  The conversation around the estimation became intense. ​​​

​To prove our theories we used anglegs and color tiles to mimick the right triangle created by the path Ben and Dan walked to determine the length of the legs using the length of squares. Even as we were building a student kept repeating, “there has to be a part 2 to this, there just has to be”.  As students concluded the area of the legs combined or the path Dan walked was the same as the area of the square on the hypotenuse or Ben’s route, the excitement grew even more. 

Many thought their estimation of the guys getting to the cart at the same time was correct after the hands on activity. Others held on to the fact that time would play a key role in who got there faster. So I revealed the information for part 2. I love that many students had already developed a rate for the sidewalk to sand speed. Those who shared their conjectures believed the rate was 2 to 1. From the provided information it was determined it was 2.5 to 1. 

“I know you are not about to do this to us.”

Then I decided to press the pause button on the task. After students recorded the speed and distances provided on their recording sheet, I instructed them to put the papers in their porfolios to which a student exclaimed, “I know you are not about to do this to us!” Can you say completely hooked?!

We finished the day completing a practice task from Hands-on Standards:


The next day, students came in asking, “Are we doing Taco Cart today?!” Each time I told them, “No, but I promise we will finish it this week.”  The suspense grew and grew. Everyday they came in asking the same question. We worked through a few more concept development tasks from the GA Math Frameworks before returning to Taco Cart on Friday. 

Students had an opportunity to use everything they learned during the week along with the information obtained in part 2 to work out the problem and develop a conclusion. Some students remained stuck in estimation mode (which was disappointing) 


Others focused on using their understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem to form their conclusion but did not factor the time element:


While others were able to make the connections:


This was the best part:


After the screaming subsided, a young lady shouted, “that was intense. We should do this more often!”