Day 91: Mathventures!

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One of the big lessons I’ve learned this year, I think, is to say “yes” and to trust kids.

So the same group of seventh graders who had the idea for the Venn diagram video—and who ran with it—came up with this idea of creating a math carnival and scavenger hunt. A group of them started to brainstorm and plan during some of their free choice time, and it really started taking shape. Soon we decided to invite a neighboring “Math Structures” class (also seventh graders) to the prospective event—and suddenly we were going to do this thing for real. Awesome. My kids made up a little formal invitation and everything.

I’d say that the highlight of the planned event was the scavenger hunt. (Technically, I suppose, really more of a treasure hunt.) Clues leading to one another were to be placed in various spot on our floor of the building. As examples, one clue involved solving a knights and knaves problem, while another involved putting together a geometric puzzle.

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The day of the event—Day 91, the Friday afternoon before our midwinter vacation—some of the class arrived a half-hour early to set up the carnival games and the scavenger hunt clues. Also, the snacks—because what’s a Mathventure without snacks? Once class started, they put on the finishing touches and had the other class come over. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony…

it was a crazy, fun, chaotic, wonderful nuttiness. To kick things off, an entire bottle of ginger ale was spilt. My kids worked hard to get their peers’ attention and to coordinate the activities. Plans fell through and then were regrouped.

But despite all of the bumps in the road, at least two teams completed the lengthy and intricate scavenger hunt, and there was a lot of genuine excitement about this completion. (The teams were sent out in waves, and the total time it took each team to finish was calculated.) When a team finished the hunt, my class sang a song they wrote. In enthusiastic unison.

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The teacher of the class we invited over is a newer teacher at our school. At the beginning of the class, I could see that he was feeling like he needed to keep order, or make sure things went well. I encouraged him to relax, saying that there would be successes and failures, but that I wanted those successes and failures to belong to my students. It was their day—they planned it and were invested in it and were going to learn from it. And he relaxed. I think that made me feel more confident in my relaxation, too.

Good day? Great day.

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