A Good Bad Day and Nailing A Percent Lesson

I wasn't in that great of shape Friday morning. An unsettled night sleep made for a potentially groggy day. Ever have one of those? And yet I managed quite well. Amazing what a brainstorm at 2am will do for a gal! (I did get home that afternoon to discover that I had my cami on backwards--ie--the skinny bra part in the back was in the front...good thing it was cold enough to wear my droopy scarf all day.)

I knew I needed a really good Hook to (re) teach percent problems. I looked through this really old POW book and found this problem for my warm up: 

So I did my happy dance because I felt like I had purpose. I let the kids wrestle with it for 3 or 4 minutes. Then I stopped them and told them this TRUE story: my brother is a Pilot for X airlines. Back in the late 80's, early 90's, his airline started to get into financial trouble. I asked the students, "who works for an airlines?" We brainstormed and came up with a list (good kiddos!) I erased all the low skill jobs from baggage handlers to air hostesses and hosts (yup, sorry you all, low skill). That left mechanics and pilots. Next question, who can work anywhere else and get a high paying job? No-brainer for most (yeah, there are some kids who think non-military pilots are in high demand), MECHANICS! Cars, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. So when the company asked folks to make concessions, it was up to the pilots. Airline X asks the pilots to take a two year temporary pay cut of 25% of their annual salary, where at the end of the two years, the company would return the 25%. (you math folks know where this going!)
Boy were the kids mad and shaking their heads. "That's not fair." Of course not, had the lawyers and union reps had paid attention during ALGEBRA, this never would have happened. Then I asked them to do this:

Which is a better deal? Taking 25% off a $100 purchase then paying 10% tax, or paying the whole $100 including tax and then getting the discount? Go! Same, same...now go back and have another look at your Warm-up. Is there anything you want to change, add? You have 120 silent seconds to move your pencils across paper (and/or use your handy-dandy calculator).

I got "blah!" I got "blah-blah!" What is the answer Ms. Z.? Who's right? "I have no clue, I haven't done the problem and probably won't get to it for awhile." Go home and ask your parents. Ask your neighbors. Survey your whole block! Now put all that fun away, you have a Chapter test to take!

The most important part for me, was not giving the answer right away. I wanted them to hit it several times and rationalize/reason for themselves.

It is curious to me, that the most likely-to-not-do-their-homework, most squirrelly, students were the ones with the most insight into percent problems...could "suss" them out in their heads and had a high degree of accuracy.

It was a long day of directed teaching...of course there was another way to approach the whole enchilada, and sometimes the subject is just so much fun to go exactly the way you want it to go.

Next time I would put one of Dan Meyer's 101qs and ask what questions the students have, and sometimes you just gotta give them their Chapter tests with enough time to finish.

Do you have a favorite way to teach percent problems?

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