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Mister Radical

May 21, 2006 pm31 4:59 pm

My high school recruits middle schoolers. In particular, we look to get well-prepared 8th graders from our corner of the City to choose us over some better known schools. Why? Well, because the other schools are better known, because we owe it to the local areas to serve their children, and because our not-so-well-known school can actually serve these children quite well.

So Friday we had a busload of 7th graders from a middle school. (Pat self on back, I arranged this one). The parent coordinator set them up in a classroom, several teachers and students came in to speak with them (including 2 alumnae of that middle school), and then the principal came in (for "only 10 minutes.") She wouldn't leave, they were that cute, that engaging, that adorable. Anyway, they asked a ton of questions. Apparently they had been assigned to research our school earlier in the week, and so came ready.

They were in four groups, each of which visited one class. I had eight come with me to my freshman algebra class.

Now, I had planned fractional exponents, which might be too advanced, but I hoped they would follow some of it. I used a normal development (the actual exercises were slightly different):

1. x3*x3 = xn , n = ___
2. 25*25 = 2n, n = ___
3. yn*yn = y2, n = ___
4. xn*xn = x8, n = ___
5. 2n*2n = 2, n = ___

Of course I pause part way through to get them to remind each other that radical-x times radical-x = x. We pause another time, long segue, to discuss 210, binary, and computer memory. We argue about #5, and then conclude that 2½; = radical 2, and then the rest flows.

Now, I am a lazy person, and my classes, especially towards June-time, reflect that. These last few weeks I have had kids slow to take out notebooks, watch the lesson without any note-taking, etc. On the other hand, participation is always good.

What I had not anticipated was the effect having 7th graders in the room answering questions would have. My kids went into full show-off mode. Even my silent student had a hand up with a good answer. They all wanted to be right. Several argued with me when they thought I was wrong (they are good, but negative fractional exponents can be confusing especially at first. I'd have to be nuts to expect them to have an instinctive feel for what to do with 16).

A few times I completely lost the ability to call on hands; they just wanted to shout out answers (to be perfectly honest, I allow this. They are a fairly polite group. But on those occasions when they begin to interrupt each other I ask for hands, and they usually comply. But I asked for hands from the beginning on Friday, because of the visitors. No dice.)

In the end we did what we needed to do. The room was at maximum volume as they worked with neighbors on simplifying (x2y3);. And then we played a Venn Diagram game. (The 7th graders had been working on Venn Diagrams back in their own math class).

So, the room was, at moments, out of control. It was raucus. But the math was hard, and all the freshmen did it, and the 7th graders followed along for major parts. There was learning. There was fun. There was pouting. There was arguing. There was way too much shouting. What did the little ones think?

After lunch I accompanied them to their bus. I made a quick pitch for making our high school their top choice and watched them board. As I turned to go back to work I heard little voices shout after me:

Get Radical

"Goodbye Mister Radical Man!"



2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2006 pm31 8:51 pm 8:51 pm

    But Peter Goodmen said that the small schools don’t recruit or screen the middle school students????

    I guess another Unity lie exposed.

  2. Mrs. F permalink
    July 23, 2008 am31 3:18 am 3:18 am

    Love that approach to introducing rational exponents. Really cool. Thaniks!

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