Thursday, November 3, 2011

Find the area

Subbed in a great 5th grade class with kids that I've known for years.  No complaints, wonderful day.

Then... math time.  I love the change in curriculum over the recent years that expects kids to understand math, rather than just compute.  Highly useful, especially considering everything is done on computers today.  As a sub, however, I sometimes find it baffling.  There is no teacher book.  There often isn't an answer key.

I took math every year in school.  I took math in college.  I rock at math.  What these kids don't understand is... I don't remember all of it! 

Usually as a sub, I can even fake it.  My best trick is sending them to a resource or other student to find the answer.  I ask for volunteers that want to share their answer, and then start a discussion.  Sometimes, I give a wrong answer just so the kids can show me how to do the problem demonstrate their understanding. 
So today, we introduced the students to area.  NOT area that they did in 4th grade.  The 5th grade variety that challenges you, and makes you define the very math concept.  I was asked to correct the pre-assessment tests. 

Star. Star. Check. Star.  I've corrected a million times.  But then I came to number 5.  The area of a triangle.  Searching my brain for all previous knowledge, emptying the corners of my mind, I am completely convinced I have no memory of this.  I didn't know how to do the problem! 

I faked it as best I could.  You'll just have to wait and see...  Then I went next door to talk to another 5th grade teacher.  I started with my plea of "I swear I'm a good sub, and I went to college, and I'm really good at math, and I hope this doesn't sway your decision of using me for a sub in the future, but...  how the heck do you do number 5??"

Thankfully, she laughed.  Then she reminded me that it's half a square.  Right...  No worries, she gave me the correct answer.

When I share these stories with my son, I'm always trying to inspire him to remember we don't know everything.  Sometimes we forget things.  Education is about building on what we know and finding the resources to fill in the blanks.  He always looks at me and says "geez mom, you would think you should know that." 

My favorite thing he says... "maybe you aren't qualified to teach that grade."

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