Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Story

My Student, A, is a nice kid. This doesn't say all there is to say about A, but it says a lot:
He mostly pays attention...he is a bit of a clueless wonder in Algebra, although his arithmetic skills are super strong. He is affable and wants to do better. He does an entire page of work...and it is all incorrect. My main theory about A. is that he comes from a family where he hasn't been shown how to study, that he is just under-exposed to "how to do school."

When Fawn Nguyen says Do These Two Things, you better listen, and here's why:

I was telling my students a story (1. Do talk to your students about yourself)
about how I spent my Saturday morning having breakfast with a bunch of fellow nerds at the Sonoma County Math Council's Breakfast. It was a rare lecture, usually we get to the business of getting dirty in some math activity. John Martin is an amazing lecturer, funny, light, thoughtful, inspiring...he must be from Midwest originally, he is just so nice. His talk was on the Golden Ratio, and he was giving a shout out to Fibonacci along the way. In addition to explaining a rather elaborate way to convert miles to kilometers using Fibonacci Numbers that only a mathematician can appreciate, he went on to show us that the 100th Fibonacci Number is in the quintillions! This is just astonishing to me! So I shared my astonishment with my students.

Alex A, thought it was astonshing too. Before you look at the picture below and really absorb the profroundity of what is happening here, re-examine the picture above:

Powerful image. We see so clearly what is right and now I have to ask myself what is wrong with A's picture and what can I do about it?

(PS, the next class is right before lunch and the kids are STARVING) A girl in front busts out a package of seaweed (we are from Sebastopol after all) and you know what...the ratio of length to width in those sheets is 1.55, intersting, eh?

Thanks John for the inspiration...and a little pat on my back for spending my glorious Saturday mathland.

Oh and anyone have a better title for this piece?

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  1. I love this, Amy! I'm so done with judging a kid based on his/her report card. There are so many layers of complexity to young people. As grown-ups, our layers have settled and been compacted, we're not going very far. But our students' ideas about themselves and about their world are still shaping, morphing, trying to find the right mold.

    Your story about Golden Ratio reveals much more besides the topic to the class:
    1) You are a nerd because you do math on Saturdays.
    2) You like hanging out with other nerds.
    3) Who John Martin is.
    4) Fibonacci numbers and how these pop up everywhere in nature.
    5) Math blows your mind and it can blow a kid's mind too because it's really cool.

    Thank you, Amy.

  2. I like the new title! Like I had mentioned before, this post gets me excited about the possibility of student achievement when their wonder is matched to their ability. Your story made this kid wonder, and he had the ability to see that wonder to a conclusion. I think a lot of my students have the wonder, but don't think they have the ability to see that wonder to a conclusion.

    1. Thanks Miller! We need to make time for the sticky stiff!


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