Non-Curricular Tasks

It begins

After poring through Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics by Peter Liljedahl (multiple times), taking part in a class with him, and following along with the Building Thinking Classrooms Facebook site, I was ready for day 1 with my new class.

The plan – I was going to launch the Tax Collector task right away. Like, “Hi, welcome to the class, I’m your teacher and… go!” I talked through this with a colleague, who pointed out that maybe just jumping in like that might be tough on students who might have more math anxiety (or, really, any anxiety about school). I have an advantage in that my students join me in their second year in Late French immersion, so they usually know each other pretty well. I’m the only new factor.

That said, she was right. I needed to think a little more.

I started with a softball question on the board – what emotion do you feel most strongly right now? I put up titles of “Tired”, “Happy”, “Excited”, “Nervous and “Other”. I had magnets with student names on them, and they placed their magnet under the category that made the most sense for them. Instant attendance – YAY!

Next, I passed out playing cards and helped students find the corresponding vertical whiteboards. In their random groups, I had them make guesses to questions about me (Am I a cat person or a dog person? How many years have I been teaching? What’s my favourite colour?). This way, their first task was low stakes – even though there was a right answer, how were they expected to know?

After this activity, I launched the Tax Collector task. There was a great buzz in the room! I eventually had to stop them to ask them to write in their name tents, an idea I got from Sara Van Der Werf.

After they left (what an hour!) I went from name tent to name tent reading their comments. I was excited to see the positive statements. Yes – day 1 was a success!


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